Is it better to be pregnant in summer or winter? The truth is each season can present different obstacles and nice bits. We take a look at them below…
When there’s a heatwave outside, many pregnant women might long for cooler weather. On the other hand, a winter mum-to-be might wish she didn’t have to contend with icy pavements and nasty lurgies. So how can you make yourself as comfortable as possible – whatever the weather?
1. Coughs and colds vs hayfever
In the winter months, coughs and colds are more common. And pregnant women can be affected more than most, as your immune system is naturally lower (Cunningham et al 2005, Memoli et al 2012). A healthy diet and washing your hands regularly can help keep the germs at bay (NHS 2017b). If you do catch a cold, wrap up warm and try to get as much rest as possible (NHS 2017b).
Your midwife will recommend a flu vaccination to give you extra protection during the winter as complications from flu are more likely during pregnancy (Yudin 2014). The vaccine is usually available from September and you’ll be offered it whatever stage of pregnancy you’re at.
If you’re pregnant during the summer, it’s still a good idea to take sensible steps to reduce your chance of catching a cold. You might get lucky and avoid them altogether.
Although your summer pregnancy is less likely to be affected by coughs and colds, you could still be hit by the sniffles due to hayfever. If the pollen count is high, you could try wearing wrap-around sunglasses or applying balm around your nose to stop pesky pollen in its tracks (UKTIS 2019). Always get advice from a pharmacist or GP before taking over-the-counter medications in pregnancy (NHS 2019b).
2. Lack of light vs too much sun
It’s cold outside and you don’t really fancy a trip out. Even if you did, those grey clouds aren’t letting many sunbeams through. A vitamin D supplement is recommended during pregnancy and this is especially important between September and May when the sun isn’t strong enough to give us a natural boost (RCOG 2014).
You could also consider including foods that naturally contain vitamin D, such as oily fish and eggs in your winter diet (British Nutritional Foundation 2018).
Lack of light is unlikely to be a problem in summer (the British climate notwithstanding!). But don’t forget to use sunscreen if you’re going outside in hot weather to avoid sunburn. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water so you don’t get heat exhaustion.
3. Overheating vs SAD
When it’s cold and dark during the day, it can be hard to avoid the winter blues, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (NHS 2018, Psychology Today 2015).
But getting outside to enjoy the fresh air will make you feel better whatever the season. Wrap up warm and wear sturdy boots or shoes to avoid slips on the icy ground (ROSPA 2019) and keep an eye on what’s ahead. Your growing bump could make it difficult to see what’s underfoot (ROSPA 2019).
During the summer, it’s a lot easier to spend time outdoors, but pregnant women often feel hotter than usual due to the extra work of carrying their bump around and increased metabolism (Raines 2018). Wear cool clothing like a floaty dress or top, which will help prevent you getting too hot.
If the weather is warm, you could try to get out for a walk during the morning or evening when temperatures are lower. Why not ask friends or family to join you on a walk in the park or countryside as an alternative to the pub?
4. Too hot to cook/eat vs can’t tuck into the Christmas cheeseboard…
We all know the advice about eating 5 a day and not eating for two during pregnancy (NICE 2015, RCOG 2014) but how easy is it when it’s freezing cold or all you can manage is ice cream on a hot day?
During the summer, standing at a hot stove can make you feel pretty fed up so you could take advantage of fresh salads and seasonal fruit. Adding some smoked salmon or mackerel has lots of health benefits and is safe to eat in pregnancy (NICE 2015, RCOG 2014). Eating your main meal in the evening when the temperature has dropped could help if you’re struggling to manage the heat.
In winter, you might crave warming stews and soups, which can be made easily and packed full of vegetables and protein-rich meat.
Around Christmas time, pregnant women can feel they’re missing out on festive goodies like the cheese boards and mulled wine. But there are still lots of tasty treats you can tuck into. Did you know you can eat soft cheeses if they’re cooked until piping hot? (NICE 2015, NHS 2017f). So pass the baked camembert!
In the summer, picnics and barbecues could have you doubting the safety of the food you’re offered but there is very little that is off the menu. And the best news is that ice cream and lollies are safe to eat so dig in and cool down (NHS 2017f).
Staying hydrated is important especially when the weather is hot. So enjoying plenty of cool water or adding fruit to sparkling water during the summer will keep you feeling great. Limiting fruit juice to 150ml a day will help to keep your sugar intake in check too (Public Health England 2018). Don’t forget that your body still needs fluids during winter too. Decaffeinated tea and coffee are good options if you need to warm up (Public Health England 2018).
5. Summer strolls vs winter workouts
OK, so our pregnant summer friends might have the advantage when it comes to keeping healthy outdoors. Walks in the park or a dip in the outdoor pool are much more tempting when the sun is shining. When it’s drizzly and overcast, not so much.
If exercising outside in winter is proving challenging due to the weather then you could consider swimming (indoors!). The water supports your bump and provides low impact aerobic exercise (Tommy’s 2019). Or you could try another fun indoor activity like pregnancy yoga.
Whatever season you’re pregnant in – there will be pros and cons so try and focus on the positives. And whether it’s sunny or snowing, you never need an excuse to just sit down and put your feet up!
This page was last reviewed in November 2019.
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Thompson MG, Kwong JC, Regan AK, Katz MA, Drews SJ, et al. Influenza caccinve effectiveness in preventing influenza-associated hospitalizations during pregnancy: A multi-country retrospective test negative design study, 2010-2016. Clinical Infectious Disease. 68(9): 1444-1453.
RCOG. Vitamin D in Pregnancy. Scientific Impact Paper No. 43. 2014. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/scientific-impact-papers/vitamin_d_sip43_june14.pdf
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British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrition during pregnancy. 2018. Available at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/nutritionforpregnancy/nutrition-and-supplements-during-pregnancy.html?start=1
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ROSPA (2019) Winter Safety. Available at https://www.rospa.com/en/Resources/Hubs/Winter#slipstrips