Home » Heat wave can trigger miscarriage, premature delivery, maternal experts warn

Heat wave can trigger miscarriage, premature delivery, maternal experts warn

by Maryam Olaniyi
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Maternal experts say the risk of miscarriage, early labour and preterm delivery is heightened during heat waves.

They also said heat waves can cause severe dehydration, tiredness, heat exhaustion and hypotension in pregnant women due to fluid reduction in the body.

The maternal health experts urged pregnant women to avoid walking in the sun, take water intermittently and stay in well-ventilated areas during this period

The United Nations Children’s Fund says heat waves happen when the temperature is higher than usual for several days.

It noted that heat waves can be extremely uncomfortable and pose serious health risks for infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly.

According to UNICEF, extreme heat can lead to heat stroke and fatalities, noting that heat waves have become more frequent, longer and severe due to climate change.

PUNCH Healthwise reported recently that the Nigerian Metrological Agency predicted that the heat wave would persist for some time.

NiMET predicted that fainting, chickenpox disease, measles, heat rash, weakness of the body, slight fever, dry lips, heat-related illnesses, respiratory issues and increased vulnerability to chronic conditions will be more rampant during periods of extreme heat.

Commenting on the issue, a professor and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Adegboyega Fawole, said that heat waves have more adverse effects on pregnant women and children than non-pregnant women and adults.

He stated that children have small body surfaces and weight and when exposed to heat waves would suffer dehydration.

Fawole said, “A pregnant woman has a body surface that is at that time going through some changes that will make her need more water than when she was not pregnant. Pregnant women get dehydrated easily and quickly.

“For pregnant women in their first trimester, extreme heat waves could cause changes in the system where the body is forming the baby. This period is the time that the organs are formed in the growing foetus. This could have changes that could cause abnormalities in these foetuses.

“Also, when the foetus is ill, there is a higher risk of miscarriage and early birth, which might make the outcome of the pregnancy unpalatable to the mother.
“For the baby born prematurely, it causes more difficulty in care as cost and survival is always guarded depending on the age.”

The don urged pregnant women during this period to work in a well-ventilated and cool environment and refrain from walking in the sun.

He also advised them to wear light clothes and take cold baths as much as possible.

As the heat wave progresses in the country, Fawole recommends, “We could cold baths at any time and as much as possible. There is also a recommendation to have a cold towel handy to mop areas that one thinks are too hot, or if one gets uncomfortable.”

The don also said walking in the sun for too long should be discouraged, noting that if such occurs, water should be taken intermittently.

“During this heat wave period, we need to stay inside more, engage in indoor games, and encourage more games between children and parents, children and children, and between parents so that everybody is protected.

“There is a need to drink more water and cool the body by getting a cold towel handy to mop the body if need be. There is the need to use a fan if available but it should not be positioned directly to the face because it blows hot air into the nostrils and that may cause irritation, dryness and other side effects.

“When air conditioners are available, it is perfect and helps the body to be cool to achieve more productivity and better health,” the maternal expert stated.

An Honorary Consultant Obstetrician Gynaecologist at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Prof Ishaq Abdul, said that the body of pregnant women needs 30 per cent more water due to the increase in blood volume, noting that dehydration caused by the heat wave can negatively affect their body mechanisms

He urged pregnant women to avoid walking in the sun during heat waves, adding, “In mild forms, there might not be any problem as a pregnant woman can survive but there is a need to drink water intermittently and avoid the heat. Walking about in the heat can compound dehydration, especially if there is already so much water loss while indoors.”

Abdul urged communities and families to support pregnant women by ensuring that they have access to a cool environment at home and workplace.

“Heat wave is a serious issue and there is a need to make the society better in terms of having constant electricity supply so that there will be fans and cooling systems in homes and offices,” he added.

Abdul advised parents and caregivers to give children more water during this period, warning them to “avoid giving juices because it can lead to diarrhoea. The best thing is to drink water to stay dehydrated.”

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