Skin and Hair
This site is provided for informational
purposes only. The information here is not intended to diagnose
or treat any condition, and should not replace the care and attention
of qualified medical personnel. Use the information on these pages
at your own risk, and, as with any information pertaining to health,
nutrition, mental health, or fitness, consult your physician before making any
changes that might affect your overall health.
Way Up High
most women, high altitude pregnancy just means that the last
month of gasping for breath may be a little more pronounced
if they moved up at the wrong point in pregnancy! For others,
there can be more serious issues.
Altitude has no
specific cut-off point. The effects increase as altitude increases,
and differences lower down are less noticeable than those
higher up. The difference between sea level and 4000 feet
is hardly perceptible. Usually people start to notice a bit
of a difference between 5000 and 6000 feet. So most pregnant
women won't be affected unless they are up there a ways.
There are three
major issues for pregnant women:
If you have been here a while, you'll not be any more uncomfortable
at the end of your pregnancy than anyone else, because your
body will have adjusted. If you move up high during the last
two months though, it could get miserable pretty quick! Take
it slow, get LOTS to drink, and try to get comfortable until
your body adjusts - usually that takes about two weeks.
2. Placental Growth.
At higher altitudes, the placenta grows larger than it does
at low altitudes. This theoretically contributes to a higher
than average incident of placenta previa. Most pregnancies
are still normal though.
3. Diabetes Control.
If you have gestational diabetes, being at very high altitudes
can upset your blood sugar control. If you move from low to
high altitudes, then monitor your blood sugar more carefully
for the first few days, until your body adjusts, and you figure
out how it is reacting.
will occur because of change. Moving from one altitude to
another can cause temporary discomfort, and the more extreme
the difference, the more likely it is to cause temporary problems.
Pregnancy is not
a time during which it is advisable to journey to areas that
are vastly higher than your normal environment. It is no time
to take a vacation to Leadville (10,000 ft) if you normally
live just above sea level. If an extreme move can be postponed,
it is better.
We moved from
Washington state to the foothills of the Rockies in Montana
(3000 ft) when I was about 4 months pregnant with my sixth
child. That was not enough to even notice a difference. We
moved from Montana to Medicine Bow Wyoming (6200 ft) when
I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with my seventh child - and THAT
I noticed! I was fairly tired for the first few days, and
became ill with nausea, headache, and stomach cramps within
24 hours - I am not sure what caused that, but it made me
feel miserable! I got over that within two days, and gradually
felt better. I gave birth to a healthy 9 lb boy a month and
a half after we moved here.
I had to make
sure to drink plenty of water, because I dried out so fast.
The need for water increases normally when pregnant, and at
higher altitudes this becomes even more essential since you
exhale and perspire so much more moisture than you do at sea
The rules are
pretty much the same as for anyone else, but with an added
word of caution about breathing difficulties - be on the alert
for problems and head them off early, because the consequences
can be more dramatic than if you are not pregnant.
Editorial Comments throughout this site written by Laura Wheeler (with occasional sarcastic remarks by her son, David). Laura is a 10 year resident of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, where the altitude is greater than the population. Medicine Bow is at 6200+ ft above sea level, and boasts a total of 297 residents from the last census. Laura is an experienced technical, health and family writer.