Hot flashes are called night sweats when they occur at night and are accompanied by profuse sweating. Night sweats are most common during menopause. However, women going through hormonal changes during pregnancy can also experience them, and it can extend to the postpartum period.
Postpartum night sweats typically occur due to changes in the level of pregnancy hormones progesterone and estrogen. They usually last a few days to about two to six weeks after delivery. They are not a serious concern and can be treated by making simple changes in one’s lifestyle. However, if the symptoms persist, medical attention may be required.
This post will guide you through the details on postpartum night sweats, their causes, symptoms, and treatments.
What Causes Postpartum Night Sweats?
1. Hormonal changes
It is one of the most common causes of postpartum night sweats. Progesterone and estrogen are the two most important hormones required to sustain the pregnancy.
The excessive release of these hormones during pregnancy and their sudden decrease after childbirth creates a hormonal imbalance and could result in night sweats. However, as the body adapts to the hormonal changes, night sweats become less frequent and ultimately stop.
2. High blood pressure
High blood pressure during pregnancy is common. Pregnant women experiencing high blood pressure may have longer durations of night sweats that could last several weeks after childbirth than women without high blood pressure.
3. Fluid accumulation
Fluids start to accumulate in the body during pregnancy. These fluids could help maintain a healthy pregnancy. Postpartum night sweat could occur to release the excess fluids accumulated in the body.
4. Menopause transition
Perimenopause, also called menopausal transition, refers to the period in a woman’s life when estrogen level starts to decrease gradually. It can begin about ten years ahead and continue till menopause.
Women may start menopause transition in their 30s or 40s. During this period, there is no change in the menstrual cycle, and pregnancy can still happen. However, due to the hormonal changes in the body, women may experience postpartum night sweats.
5. Pre-pregnancy problems
Studies have shown that a high body weight during the pre-pregnancy period seemed to contribute towards pregnancy-related hot flashes that can sometimes get stretched to the postpartum period.
How Long Do Postpartum Night Sweats Last?
Postpartum night sweats usually last from a few days to six weeks after childbirth. However, in some women, they may persist for up to one year after childbirth together with varied symptoms(1). If postpartum night sweats persist beyond six weeks, consult a doctor as longer durations of postpartum night sweats may indicate morbidity.
What Are The Signs Of Postpartum Sweats?
One can notice the occurrence of postpartum night sweats since the most common symptom is excessive sweating. You may also notice the following (4).
- Excess sweating can sometimes be accompanied by an increased heart rate.
- The sweat usually brings along a pungent smell.
- You might feel dizzy and tired.
- Postpartum night sweats may cause you to wake up frequently at night.
- Night sweats may also cause fever, if caused by underlying morbidity.
How Are Postpartum Night Sweats Treated?
1. Hormone therapy
It is one of the most suggested treatments for postpartum night sweats. Hormone therapy involves taking either a mixture of the hormones progesterone and estrogen or estrogen alone. These can be taken orally in the form of a capsule. Estrogen is also prescribed as creams to be applied in the vagina and in the form of skin patches.
Your doctor will assess several factors, such as breastfeeding, your plans for the next pregnancy, and overall health, before prescribing a hormone to treat postpartum night sweats.
2. Non-hormonal treatments
If you do not want hormonal therapy, you may consider non-hormonal approaches.
- Medications: Your doctor may prescribe different medications to treat night sweats. Some of these drugs include venlafaxine, desvenlafaxine, fluoxetine, paroxetine, escitalopram, gabapentin, and clonidine. All of them are safe for breastfeeding women and do not affect the baby’s health (6). However, they can cause some side effects and should only be taken when prescribed.
- Acupuncture: Studies show that acupuncture accounts for a considerable decrease in the occurrence of night sweats or hot flashes.
- Herbal remedies: Evening primrose oil and black cohosh are some of the herbal remedies that may be considered for night sweats. However, these are only taken as short-term solutions since there is limited evidence of their effectiveness against postpartum night sweats. You may also consult an herbal medicine expert to determine if they affect the breastfeeding baby.
How To Manage Postpartum Night Sweats?
- Drink cold water in intervals and before sleep to keep the body cool. You can also include fresh fruit juices in your diet.
- Open windows and use a fan or an air conditioner to keep your room cool.
- Use ice packs and wet wipes on your neck occasionally or whenever there is a sense of a hot flash rising.
- Avoid wearing several layers of clothing or tight clothes to not increase your body temperature.
- Most women go through postpartum depression and stress, which may add to the excess sweating. You can try to include different breathing techniques and relaxation methods, such as reading books or listening music, to manage stress.
- Certain food items may trigger night sweats in some women. For instance, spicy food and coffee may cause night sweats in some cases. You may identity such food items in your diet and avoid them or reduce their intake.
- Exercise on a regular basis with a nutritious diet can help keep the body healthy and may reduce postpartum night sweats.
When To See A Doctor?
Although postpartum night sweats do not raise any serious health concerns, their prolonged prevalence can require medical attention (8). You may consider consulting a doctor if the following symptoms accompany night sweats.
- Body pain
- Weight loss
- Difficulty in breathing
Postpartum sweats usually go away within weeks of delivery and seldom cause any problems. It is important to stay calm if you experience hot flashes and follow simple home remedies to ease your discomfort. If the symptoms seem alarming or postpartum night sweats last for more than six weeks, visit your OB/GYN or healthcare provider.
- Rebecca C. Thurston et al. (2013); Prospective evaluation of nighttime hot flashes during pregnancy and postpartum
- Your body after the birth (The first six weeks)
- Menopause perimenopause and postmenopause
- Introduction to menopause
- Menopause: Non hormonal treatment & relief for hot flashes
- Did I just have a hot flash? I’m 44
- Diagnosing night sweats