How to cope with flushes and night sweats in pregnancy
Short on time? Then the key things to know are:
- Night sweats, hot flushes and feeling hot and cold are common experiences for many women in pregnancy and during the postpartum period
- There are several reasons why you may feel warmer than normal which include hormonal changes, changes in your blood flow, as well as weight gain
- There are lots of ways to help manage these symptoms such as using an electric fan at night and wearing loose clothing made of natural fibres
- Whilst these symptoms may be embarrassing and uncomfortable, they are usually not a cause for concern, and typically come and go throughout pregnancy and for the first few weeks after birth (but should not last longer than this)
Sweating, hot flushes, feeling hot or feeling cold… whilst it may be uncomfortable, temperature changes are a completely normal part of pregnancy.
Here we share our top tips for coping with hot flushes and night sweats pre and after giving birth.
Are hot sweats normal during pregnancy?
During pregnancy your body temperature will rise slightly - which is completely normal. And as sweating is the natural way of trying to cool down and regulate your body temperature, doing so during pregnancy is also common.
It is this sweating in pregnancy which will cool you down and prevent overheating (which could potentially be unhealthy for you and your baby). The hormonal changes during pregnancy can also stimulate your brain (the part called the hypothalamus) and make your body think that it is even warmer than it is, so you might sweat more than is actually required.
When will I experience hot flushes and how long do they last?
Typically, increased sweating and hot flushes (or flashes) are more common (and intense) in the first and third trimesters. Soon after you become pregnant, the changing hormones and increased blood flow cause an increase in basal body temperature and often, feeling hotter can be the first sign of early pregnancy. Overall, studies show that up to 35% of pregnant women report hot flushes during pregnancy and postpartum.
What about after birth?
After your baby is born, sweating is also more common as your body tries to get rid of the excess fluid accumulated during pregnancy. In addition, with your hormones changing again after delivery, you may experience night sweats (nocturnal hyperhidrosis).
Common causes of hot flushes in pregnancy and after birth
There are a number of reasons why you might experience hot flushes and sweating in pregnancy:
- Hormonal changes to the body
- Increased blood flow: by the beginning of the third trimester, your blood volume will increase by almost 50%
- Higher metabolism: in pregnancy, you burn more calories and thus generate more heat as your body works harder growing another human
- Weight gain: with carrying the extra weight of pregnancy, especially towards term, you will use more energy and this often generates more heat
- Illness: as with pre-pregnancy, any illness which causes a fever can also increase sweating during pregnancy
- Medication: All medications have side effects for some people - occasionally, a side effect of some medications is sweating - this could also include medications that treat morning sickness and nausea
- Hyperthyroidism: it's normal for thyroid activity to increase in pregnancy as a result of baseline changes in hormones, which can cause an increase in body temperature and sweating - however, an overactive thyroid is not a normal part of pregnancy… this could cause palpitations (an awareness of your heart beating in your chest), a fast heart rate and excessive sweating which is more than what would be expected (there are other symptoms of hyperthyroidism which can accompany these, and if you are concerned about this please reach out to one of our health experts)
How to cope with hot flashes and sweating during pregnancy
Thankfully there are a number of things you can do to stop or relieve hot flashes and excessive sweating whilst pregnant.
Some women also have drenching night sweats soaking their nightwear and sheets during pregnancy and into the postpartum period. This can drastically interrupt sleep and be uncomfortable so make sure to follow the below tips:
- Where possible wear breathable clothing made of natural fibres (such as 100% cotton) and avoid warmer fabrics like wool
- Wearing layers that you can remove can also be useful
- Hydrate well with water to replace the fluid you will be losing as you sweat
- Wear an antiperspirant and bathe regularly
- Use hand held and electric room fans, air conditioning or open a window
- Try to avoid spicy foods and caffeine which can increase body temperature
- Wear lightweight pyjamas and layering bed sheets (of a lighter fabric) to help with night sweats
- Sleep on a towel which can help to absorb some of the sweat and help to protect the sheets so you won't have to wash them everyday
During warmer weather:
- Aim to stay out of the sun when it is at its warmest, and always wear high factor SPF protection
- If you do have to go out, or exercise outside, try to do this in the morning or evening when it will be cooler
- Exercise indoors in air-conditioned environments if possible
- Make sure to hydrate well during the day
When should I be concerned about night sweats or flushes?
If you are ever concerned about hot flushes or night sweats, it is important to reach out to your doctor, midwife or our expert practitioners at Naytal. Despite the common occurrence of these symptoms in pregnancy, occasionally they can signify something else going on (like hyperthyroidism discussed above).
You should speak with a medical professional sooner if:
- You have extreme itching
- Your have a sustained high fever
- You feel dehydrated or faint
- Postpartum night sweats and hot flushes last longer than 6 weeks after the baby is born
It is understandable that you may feel embarrassed by these symptoms, and of course they are often inconvenient: disrupting your daily routine and sleep. But hopefully, the above listed ways can help you to find some relief. As long as you maintain your fluid intake and keep cool in the ways discussed above, problems such as overheating and dehydration can be avoided.
It is normal to sweat more and feel hot during pregnancy: it is a sign that your hormones are changing and your body is supporting a growing baby.
If you have any concerns about night sweats or flushes during the course of your pregnancy (or any other symptoms) our midwives are here to help.. Book a consultation for one-to-one guidance today.
Thurston RC, Luther JF, Wisniewski SR, Eng H, Wisner KL. Prospective evaluation of nighttime hot flashes during pregnancy and postpartum. Fertil Steril. 2013;100(6):1667-72. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.08.020
Lain K, Catalano P. Metabolic changes in pregnancy. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2007;50(4):938-948.
Hytten F. Blood volume changes in normal pregnancy. Clin Haematol.1985;14(3):601-12.
Dr Aynsley Cresswell, Naytal Medical Advisor
Dr Aynsley Cresswell is an experienced GP with a special interest in women’s sexual health, and obstetrics and gynaecology.