The short answer is yes. Hot flashes during pregnancy are normal, and happen to a large percentage of pregnant people. There’s not even an abnormal part of the pregnancy where hot flashes occur, as it’s normal for them to take place very early in the pregnancy, very late in the pregnancy, and for a period of time after giving birth.
What Causes Hot Flashes in Pregnancy?
A commonly cited reason for this pregnancy symptom comes from sudden changes in a couple of different hormones throughout this process. In particular, estrogen and progesterone increase their levels of production, and they also release at various levels during pregnancy. Additionally, these levels tend to quickly drop off after delivery.
Hot flashes during pregnancy occur with some relative commonality because of these hormonal jumps. Additionally, because of the fast drop in these hormones after giving birth, hot flashes can continue postpartum. Sources like ByWinona note that hot flashes after giving birth are especially common for those who breastfeed.
More than a third of pregnant people will experience hot flashes at some point while they’re carrying their baby.
Increased body temperatures can also be influenced by other, less obvious bodily changes. Increased blood volume and changes to blood constitution during pregnancy can also cause these changes. In fact, blood volume can increase by approximately 45% in the third trimester of pregnancy, and red blood cell production can increase by up to 40%.
Heart rates are also known to increase during pregnancy, and the combination of changes to the cardiac system and blood volume have shown to raise metabolism levels by approximately 300 calories per day.
Increases in metabolism can lead to hot flashes, as they have been noted to contribute to spikes in body temperature during pregnancy in general.
What do Hot Flashes Feel Like?
Hot flashes in pregnancy will generally consist of warmer feeling skin and sweating, and instances of night sweats are also considered to be relatively common.
In some cases, hot flashes paired with changes in bowel movements like diarrhea, a fever, flu-like activity, and other symptoms, can indicate a more serious problem. In these instances, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor.
Temperatures that are significantly higher than normal body temperatures, around 99 degrees Fahrenheit, are not typical of most hot flashes. Especially in these instances, seek out professional medical advice.
How do I Avoid Hot Flashes?
While hormone related treatments can not be performed during treatments, as this could cause potential harm to the growing fetus, there are some strategies that can be used to reduce the likelihood of encountering this uncomfortable symptom.
GoodTo notes a few of these ideas, including wearing more breathable fabrics, including thinner clothing at night to avoid night sweats, can be helpful. The site also recommends taking showers that are cooler in temperature to combat hot flashes.
Other tactics that are commonly known to lower body temperature and are helpful in avoiding hot flashes in pregnancy include drinking more water. Having cold beverages, and especially water, can be utilized by the body to decrease the body’s temperature.
Controlling the temperature of the environment, including turning on the air conditioning or using a stationary or portable fan, also has some great potential at avoiding overheating.
Apparently, eating smaller meals and snacks more frequently throughout the day can help to balance out blood sugar levels. The spikes and crashes associated with longer intervals between eating also have the potential to dramatically change a body’s temperature, possibly triggering more hot flashes.
What Triggers Hot Flashes?
Several things can make hot flashes in pregnancy much more likely to happen. A noncomplete list of these causes includes:
- Tight-fitting clothing
- Warm to hot temperatures, inside or outside
- Increased levels of anxiety and/or stress
- Hot drinks and foods, like soup or tea
- Caffeine, as this can increase your heart rate
- Spicy food, which can also increase heart rate and increase the likelihood of sweating
- Drinking alcohol
When do Hot Flashes Occur in Pregnancy?
Hot flashes can occur at any point during a person’s pregnancy, and they can even begin in the very early stages. Some sources claim that hot flashes can start before you even realize that you’re pregnant, about the time that a period would be expected to start.
However, hot flashes occur most often during the third trimester of pregnancy, or beginning around the 28 week mark and forward.
Some will experience hot flashes early on in their pregnancy, as in the first 12 weeks. This is especially the case if they also experience particularly bad bouts of other symptoms, like morning sickness.
According to an article by LiveScience, those who track their basal body temperatures (the temperature of the body when you first wake up in the morning) may notice an elevated temperature in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
These temperatures are expected to drop after giving birth, at the latest around 12 weeks postpartum. However, this is not typical. According to HappiestBaby, postpartum hot flashes should be at their most intense two weeks after giving birth, and will generally last approximately six weeks.