The surf, the sand, the sun… oh, the sun! You’re all about the waves and can’t wait for your seaside vacation. Go ahead and toss that itsy-bitsy bikini in your bag, grab a summer beach towel, and head out to your perfect beach destination. Wait, you’re pregnant — scratch the bikini? Maybe not! Growing another human being inside of you changes a lot, which means some tweaks to your coastal trip. Check out what you need to know before you go!

A pregnant woman sits on a beach wearing a bikini and smiling down at her baby bump

1. Embrace your bump. You’re glowing, you’re showing… and you kind of feel like a beached whale. Don’t stress! There’s absolutely no shame in showing off your “with-baby” body. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise: Your body is beautiful, no matter its shape or size. Put on your bikini, take off the tent-like cover-up, and show off your beautiful self.

2. Always use sunscreen. There are more new cases of skin cancer reported every year than prostate, breast, colon, and lung cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. So, yes, sunscreen is always important. Along with protecting your skin from serious long-term damage, getting a burn is never fun. This is extra true when you’re already uncomfortable during your pregnancy. Itching, peeling, and stinging on top of the stretching your skin is already feeling just won’t do. But before you slather up, check the ingredients list (and check with your doc). Sunscreens containing the chemical oxybenzone have been linked to having low-birth-weight babies.

A pregnant woman floats on her back in bright turquoise water

3. Enjoy the water. Provided you watch out for sharp objects such as jagged rocks (and, of course, shark teeth), the water may actually be your friend. It will cool you off on a hot day and take some of the pressure off of your body. Even though you’re not totally weightless in the water, you’ll be light enough to feel less of the aches and pains that pregnancy brings on. Just don’t forget that sunscreen, because while you’ll be feeling more cool and comfortable, the reflection off the water ups your chance of a sunburn.

4. Take breaks. Staying out in the sun for too long may make you feel not-so-great. Couple that with the sweat that’s now pouring down your body, and you’ll want to take breaks somewhere shady or air-conditioned. Find a nearby spot (perhaps your hotel or a café) that you can duck into for a virgin colada or a quick snack. Limiting your beach time can also limit your sun exposure. Not only is that healthier for your skin, but it may also reduce the risk of discoloration. Between the increased melanin production that’s going on in your pregnant body and the sun’s shiny rays, you have an increased chance of developing melasma. Known as “the mask of pregnancy,” melasma looks like brownish spots or patches on your face.

A pregnant woman standing in front of the ocean drinks from a bottle of water

5. Stay hydrated. Attention to hydration is essential during pregnancy. Too little water and you’ll shrivel into something resembling a raisin. Okay, not really, but pregnant women really do need more water than the average girl. Dehydration can have some serious side effects that include low amniotic fluid, premature labor, or reduced breast milk production. When the summer sun is hot and you’re parked on the sand, keep a water bottle handy — and filled!

6. Eat early. With all of the sun and fun, your exhaustion level will peak early on. But that doesn’t mean you should skip dinner and snooze instead. The senior special probably starts sometime around 4pm. Join Grandma and Grandpa for a super-early-bird dinner during your beach vacation. Eat earlier, and then get your sleep time in.

A pregnant woman strolls down a beach on a breezy day

7. Get in some light exercise. Just because you’re spending 98 percent of your beach vacation lounging on a comfy towel with the ocean breeze gently washing over you doesn’t mean you can’t get in a workout. Before you start asking where the hotel gym is, take a look around you. The beach is the perfect place to exercise without overdoing it. Take a stroll through the sand, getting your feet wet in the ocean as you go along.

8. Pack extra outfits. The game plan is to spend the morning seaside, grab lunch, nap, and then hit the beach again. So you pop into the ocean early on and then — well, then you’re spending the entire day in a damp suit. Yuck. You’re sandy, you’re uncomfortable, and you just want to feel dry again. Make sure to pack an extra bathing suit and a change of clothes. You’ll thank yourself later.

What beach is your go-to vacation spot? Tweet us your pick @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)