Pregnancy Hot Flashes
You probably think hot flashes are the domain of women going through menopause – not ladies who are carrying a baby. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to experience pesky hot flashes during pregnancy. As many as a third of all women complain of hot flashes at some point during the nine months of pregnancy.
What Do Pregnancy Hot Flashes Feel Like?
Most women describe pregnancy hot flashes as feelings of intense heat, often followed by sweating. These annoying waves of heat can happen any time of the day or night and may even awaken you from a sound sleep. They may occur occasionally or many times a day.
If you have pregnancy hot flashes, you might also experience other signs and symptoms, like a rapid heart rate or reddening and flushing of your face and neck. The reddening is due to blood vessels opening wider to release heat. Sometimes an intense hot flash and sweating is followed by chills.
Although intense, these flashes only last from several seconds to a few minutes. The warmth usually begins in the face and neck and may spread to your lower body as well. You’re most likely to experience pregnancy hot flashes during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
When you have hot flashes and chills, it’s important to distinguish the heat of a hot flash from a fever. If the warm sensation doesn’t subside quickly, check your temperature to make sure it’s normal.
What Causes Pregnancy Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes during pregnancy are due to the rapid hormonal fluctuations that take place when you’re carrying a baby. Factors like being overweight or anxious can make the flashes worse. With so many hormonal changes, it’s not surprising that hot flashes are so common. Having hot flashes is normal and, assuming you’re otherwise healthy, isn’t a cause for concern. The question is what can you do about them?
Tips for Living with Pregnancy Hot Flashes
Although there isn’t a sure-fire way to keep hot flashes away, there are steps you can take to make them easier to deal with:
Drink plenty of liquids. Water is the best beverage for staying hydrated. If you’d like to kick your water up a notch taste-wise, add fresh fruit slices to water and place it in the fridge for a few hours to make your own fruit-infused water.
Dress in layers so you can quickly remove clothing when a hot flash strikes. Choose clothing in natural fabrics, like cotton, that “breathes.”
Keep the temperature of your sleeping area low. You’ll appreciate a cooler room if a hot flash hits you. Keep fans and air conditioning running in areas where you live and work.
Exercise in a cool environment. Working up a sweat may help you avoid pregnancy-related sweats and hot flashes, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania. Choose the coolest time of day to work out and keep a fan running if you exercise indoors.
Watch what you eat. Limit spicy foods and caffeine, both of which can worsen pregnancy hot flashes.
If you have severe pregnancy hot flashes and nothing else works, acupuncture may offer relief. Some women also experience relief with mind-body practices, like yoga or meditation.
Will They Ever End?
Fortunately, pregnancy hot flashes usually subside within a few weeks of giving birth as your hormones rebalance. If you’re having problems sleeping or hot flashes are disrupting your life, talk to your doctor. Otherwise, comfort yourself with the knowledge that this, too, will pass.
Today’s Parent. “Pregnancy: How to cope with hot flashes”
Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2010 Jul;151(1):38-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2010.03.021. Epub 2010 Apr 24.
Mayo Clinic. “Heat During Pregnancy: How to Beat It”