I had just started a new travel nursing job in Atlanta, Georgia. We were staying in an Airbnb in someone’s walkout basement apartment with no bathtub (we had a 9 month old) and no kitchen. Over the course of a few days I noticed night after night I was waking up soaking wet. Not only where my clothes soaking wet, but also my bed was soaking wet. I had to start sleeping on a towel and changing my clothes multiple times a night. I emailed my OBGYN’s nurse and asked her if this could be some weird postpartum symptom and what should I do about it? Little did I know that was my first sign of pregnancy. Who knew hot flashes during pregnancy was a thing? I had definitely not experienced that with my last pregnancy.
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Are Hot Flashes During Pregnancy Normal?
My story is not all that uncommon. Although hot flashes during early pregnancy does happen it is more rare and is not an indicator of pregnancy. It is one of the uncommon early symptoms of pregnancy. So look for these additional symptoms to accompany your hot flashes before you assume pregnancy.
- sore breasts
- nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
- frequent urination
- spotting and/or cramping
- increased sense of smell
- darkening of your areola
Hot flashes in pregnancy do occur, and can be expected to occur in 30% of pregnant women. Research has shown that hot flashes during pregnancy tend to peak around 30 weeks.
What Causes Pregnancy Hot Flashes
There is a lack of information on what truly causes hot flashes during pregnancy. There are many logical reasons that could lead to why you may be experiencing them.
It is believed that hot flashes during pregnancy are related the to large hormonal changes that occur. Estrogen and progesterone levels increase during pregnancy and peak at the end of pregnancy. They will drop drastically in the postpartum period. These fluctuations can lead to big hormonal shifts that you also see in menopausal women who also experience hot flashes.
Another reason that could cause these hot flashes during pregnancy is the growing fetus. As the baby grows they also start to put off heat. They are like a little internal heater. This increase in body temperature can also lead to hot flashes and could be the reason you see a peak in hot flashes in pregnancy in the third trimester.
Gaining weight in pregnancy is expected as your baby, uterus, and placenta are all growing. During a healthy pregnancy you will gain around 20-35 lbs. That added weight can contribute to your hot flashes during pregnancy as an increased BMI is a risk factor.
Higher Metabolic Rate
Hot flashes during pregnancy can be a result of increased blood flow. Our blood volume increases by 45% by the third trimester. This increase in blood volume is to support the needs of the growing fetus giving them more oxygen and nutrients. As the blood volume increases so also will your heart rate, which in turn increases your overall metabolic rate. A higher metabolic rate actually increases your overall body temperature.
There are other factors influencing your metabolic rate. Your body is also preparing for the postpartum period and will be preparing to produce milk for the baby. This increase in milk production leads to increased metabolic rate.
As you can see there are many things changing in your body and these various factors can influence your likelihood of being one of the 30% of women that will experience hot flashes during their pregnancy.
When to See Your Provider
If you are experiencing a fever of over 100.4 please reach out to your provider. Hot flashes are typically not dangerous, but if you have a fever there could be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
If you are having hot flashes and dizziness during pregnancy it is also a good idea to follow up with your provider. You may be dehydrated or having low blood pressures. Make sure your provider is aware of your symptoms as they are most familiar with your overall health history.
Tips for Coping with Pregnancy Hot Flashes
Pregnancy and postpartum hot flashes are often not dangerous but can be very uncomfortable. Here are some tips to help decrease the frequency of hot flashes or help you tolerate them.
- Improve your nutrition to avoid drops in blood sugar levels. That may look like eating more small meals throughout the day that are high in protein. Also take a prenatal vitamin to ensure you are not missing any essential nutrients to support your pregnancy.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day
- Consider carrying a small portable fan with you to use as needed
- Smoking can increase hot flashes, so stop smoking (it is also unsafe for your baby to smoke during pregnancy).
- Avoid foods and drinks that can increase your body temperature such as spicy food or alcohol (alcohol is also unsafe to consume during pregnancy).
- Maintain a regular moderate exercise program. Regularly sweating can actually decrease your risk for hot flashes during pregnancy.
- Avoid stress! Stress is a major risk factor for hot flashes and can increase frequency of hot flashes during pregnancy. Try incorporating yoga or meditation to manage stress.
- Dress in layers so you can take off clothing as you have hot flashes. Also choose non restrictive, lightweight clothing that is breathable such as cotton or linen.
- Incorporate more foods that contain phytoestrogens such as beans, peas, soybeans, soy products, vegetables, wheat, oats, apples, carrots, lentils, and rice.
- For night sweats turn up AC at night, use a fan, sleep in light layers, and breathable bedding. Try to avoid using heavy comforters or blankets.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hot flashes during pregnancy are just another one of those new bodily changes that can occur for women while carrying a baby and into the postpartum period. It will occur in about 30% of pregnant women at some point throughout their pregnancy or postpartum experience. It will often resolve on its own after a few weeks and requires no medical treatment. It is safe for you and your baby, but should be addressed with your provider especially if you are having fevers or other concerning symptoms. That’s not to say it can’t be very annoying and uncomfortable so try the suggestions above and speak with your provider. You are not alone and this too will pass.
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.