Research-backed

Hot Flashes In Pregnancy: Are These Normal, Causes And Tips

Image: iStock

IN THIS ARTICLE

Hot flashes in pregnancy may usually occur in the first and second trimesters and commonly at nights (1). Hot flashes are due to changes in pregnancy-related hormones, which may increase blood flow, heat responses, and sweating on the face, neck, and chest (2). In some women, the hot flashes are mild and infrequent, while in some, they are aggravating and continue even after pregnancy due to hormonal changes and breastfeeding initiation.

But what are hot flashes? Read this post to learn more about hot flashes in pregnancy.

What Do Hot Flashes Feel Like?

Hot flashes are sudden, intermittent heat sensations felt in the head and neck regions, gradually moving down to the chest. In some women, the heatwave is triggered from the lower body, and the body is cooled down after a sudden hot flash with profuse sweating (3). If you feel a sudden, sharp rise in body temperature without warning for a couple of seconds or minutes, it could be a hot flash.

A hot flash is different from a fever as flashes do not elevate body temperature. Also, flashes during menopause and pregnancy are similar, but symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and a heightened sense of smell are unique during pregnancy.

What Causes Hot Flashes In Pregnancy?

It is not completely known what causes hot flashes. A few studies indicate the following as the potential causes and risk factors for triggering hot flashes in pregnancy.

  • Fluctuating hormones: Hormonal transitions are common during pregnancy. These changes may trigger alterations in brain chemicals and thermoregulatory events, which may increase the blood flow and heat sensations in the body (2).
  • Increased body temperature: Increased metabolic rate in pregnancy might result in increased body heat, which might cause hot flashes. However, hormonal changes and increased blood supply might make you feel warmer than usual during pregnancy (4).
  • Dehydration: If you have insufficient fluid levels during pregnancy, it might lead to increased body temperature, making you feel hot and exhausted (5).
  • Being overweight: Gaining a few extra pounds during pregnancy and having a higher body mass index might make your body warmer, leading to an increased risk of hot flashes.

Other risk factors that might increase the prevalence of hot flashes in pregnancy are smoking, anxiety, history of blood pressure disorders, depressive symptoms, and stress (2) (6).

What Are The Symptoms Of Hot Flashes In Pregnancy?

Hot flashes in pregnancy may be associated with the following symptoms. If you experience a fever or severity in any signs during pregnancy, you must report it to your doctor (2) (3).

  • Sudden streaks of heat felt on face and body
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Redness in face
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling like sleeping on a sunbed

Several of these symptoms may occur due to other problems and illnesses as well. Therefore, consult a doctor if you experience hot flashes during pregnancy.

When Do Hot Flashes Stop Occurring?

According to one study, hot flashes and night sweats peak at week 30 of the pregnancy and then at two weeks postpartum, declining in the coming weeks (2). Experts agree that a woman’s body undergoes various postpartum changes during the first six weeks after delivery and postpartum night sweats and fatigue are more pronounced during this time. Nevertheless, most women are relieved of these symptoms over time. However, if your hot flashes do not improve, you may consult a doctor.

How To Deal With Pregnancy Hot Flashes?

Some ways of managing hot flashes during pregnancy are (6) (7) (8):

  • Avoid triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers, such as cigarettes, caffeine, and stress, might help in reducing the occurrence of hot flashes.
  • Sleep in a cool environment: Be sure to maintain a cool environment in your bedroom. You may do so by turning on the air conditioner or ceiling fan at night to prevent night sweats and sudden hot flashes.
  • Regular exercise: You may follow a low-intensity exercise routine, such as walking and swimming, to help you stay fit and cut off the body heat.
  • Wear comfortable clothing: Wear loose and comfortable clothing made of airy fabrics such as cotton and linen. Avoid tight clothes and fabrics of wool or silk that may trap excess body heat.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Focus on maintaining a healthy weight and standard BMI before pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to know about healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink lots of water and fluids to prevent dehydration during pregnancy, and always keep a bottle of water accessible.
  • Modify diet: Certain foods, such as spicy and high-fat foods, may increase body heat in some women, increasing the risk of hot flashes. Avoid these foods if you notice they make you susceptible to hot flashes.
  • Avoid excess sun exposure: Keep away from over-exposure to sunlight by wearing a hat or carrying an umbrella.
  • Cool showers: Taking a cool shower before going to bed might help in regulating your body heat.
  • Deep breathing exercises: Breathing exercises have been shown to prevent or reduce the occurrence of hot flashes in some women.
  • Choose a healthy lifestyle: Picking healthy lifestyle choices may help reduce the risk of hot flashes. A few healthy choices you can make are eating nutritious food, resting well, managing stress, quitting smoking and alcohol, and limiting caffeine intake.
  • Alternative therapies: If you cannot control hot flashes through any of these methods, you may consider alternative therapies after consulting your doctor. Some techniques that could help are yoga (it can also provide relief from stressful events), massage therapy, acupuncture, and meditation.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can hot flashes affect my baby’s health?

There are no studies to suggest that hot flashes may harm the baby. However, like morning sickness, hot flashes could be bothersome to the mother. If you have any concerns, be sure to discuss them with your doctor.

2. Are hot flashes a sign of pregnancy?

Hot flashes accompanied with other signs such as tiredness, tender breasts, nausea, morning sickness, sleeplessness, mood swings, back pain, and sensitivity or aversion to smells might indicate pregnancy. However, if you do not experience any other signs, hot flashes may indicate a different underlying condition (9).

3. Can hot flashes help one determine the gender of the baby?

There are no scientific or research-based studies to prove that hot flashes may indicate the baby’s gender.

4. Can hot flashes cause headaches?

There are no studies to show that hot flashes alone can cause headaches in pregnancy. Increased blood circulation and hormonal shifts are the main causes of headaches in pregnancy. However, other factors, such as appetite changes, nausea, fatigue, and stress, may trigger or aggravate pregnancy-related headaches (10).

Hot flashes are one of the several conditions that a woman may experience during pregnancy. Although the heat and stress of a hot flash could be annoying, hot flashes are usually harmless and subside postpartum. Nevertheless, it is best to consult a doctor if you experience hot flashes since several of its symptoms may occur in other problems or illnesses as well. If you are diagnosed with hot flashes, in most cases, you may be able to manage it with simple lifestyle changes.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
The following two tabs change content below.

Vidya Tadapatri

Vidya did her post-graduation in Biotechnology from Osmania University, Hyderabad. Her interest in scientific research and writing made her pursue a career in writing, in which she now has over four years of experience. She has done certified biotechnology-related training programs under renowned organizations such as Centre For Cellular & Molecular Biology and Department of Biotechnology. Vidya writes health-based articles... more