During pregnancy, it is easy to feel like you literally have a bun in the oven. The growth and development of the baby (fetus) is significantly dependent on the mother’s day-to-day activities and physical changes. One of the very common side effects that occur as a result of these changes is hot flashes. Hot flashes during pregnancy are completely normal, and can even be expected after the baby is born.
In a 2013 study, 35% of women experienced hot flashes during pregnancy and 29% of women reported hot flashes after delivery. Hot flashes peak at 30 weeks of pregnancy but were reported throughout pregnancy by some women. After delivery, hot flashes continued to increase for 2 weeks and then declined as the hormone levels returned to normal pre-pregnancy state.
In other words, yes it is completely normal to have hot flashes during pregnancy. Keep reading to find out why and learn about some possible solutions for you.
What causes hot flashes during pregnancy?
The biggest reason that many pregnant women experience hot flashes is the sudden change of estrogen and progesterone hormone levels throughout pregnancy. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels are increased and released at varying levels and drop very quickly after the delivery of the baby. This drop in estrogen and progesterone levels can, and often do, cause hot flashes to continue postpartum, especially if you are breastfeeding.
The sometimes rapid changes in estrogen and progesterone can actually mimic some of the symptoms women experience during menopause. Sweating, warmer skin, and even the occasional night sweat can be expected. Increased metabolism, at about 300 more calories per day, can also lead to hot flashes. The breasts swell in anticipation of breastfeeding and become capable of producing large quantities of breast milk. The increased work necessary to produce breast milk further increases metabolism, about 500 additional calories per day, and will lead to further body heat changes.
There are a few physiologic changes during pregnancy that are pretty obvious: enlargement of the uterus and the breasts. When a woman is not pregnant, her uterus is typically about the size of a pear, but with pregnancy, it grows to accommodate the baby and swells to bigger than a newborn baby. The fetus itself releases body heat as it grows, and can act as an internal heater. Once the baby is born, the uterus gradually shrinks back again to a pear size.
Less obvious changes in the body of a pregnant woman can lead to increased body temperature including blood volume and the constitution of the blood. These changes in blood volume and the cardiac system during pregnancy have been shown to raise the metabolism, contributing to the spikes in body temperature in pregnancy. This process, however, is necessary for delivering oxygen and nutrition to the fetus but also affects the mother’s blood vessels, especially the vessels near the surface of the skin. The more blood flows to the skin, the more it flushes (or glows), and the warmer the mother can feel.
What triggers hot flashes?
There are quite a few things that can trigger hot flashes during pregnancy:
Things to watch for
While feeling warmer, and experiencing hot flashes, can be normal during pregnancy, you may want to check with your doctor if you are experiencing night sweats with other symptoms. See your doctor immediately if you have:
- A fever higher than 101F
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle aches
What are some treatment options?
This kind of situation can be difficult to treat. It is not safe to give hormones during pregnancy as they can affect the baby. Hormone therapy is also not safe after delivery because it can affect breast milk. Falling estrogen levels, and to a lesser extent falling progesterone levels, is the signal that initiates breast milk production. It is these same falling hormone levels that are thought to be the mechanism of hot flashes. Replacing these hormones immediately after delivery of the baby can blunt the signals needed to establish a milk supply. Treating hot flashes during pregnancy really boils down to two major categories: diet and lifestyle.
As far as your diet, simly cut back on caffeine as much as you can. This included all of our favorites like:
- Caffeinated Soda,
- Spicy Foods, and
- Hot Foods.
During those moments, take some time to drink a glass of cool water to lessen the discomfort. Now let’s get into the lifestyle changes…
I am sure you heard all of the basics, “carry wet wipes, use a fan, avoid triggers, exercise, yoga and meditation, etc,” but what else could you do?
As you already know, taking hormonal supplements are not going to be the best or healthiest option to combat hot flashes during pregnancy. Many women have opted for a herbal supplement but that is not recommended due to the possibility of side effects, poor oversight, or change in how other medications work that it could cause. That is where a hormone replacement comes in!
Because every body is different, there are customizable treatments to have you feeling amazing. This bio-identical hormone replacement treatment is comprised of so many amazing health and convenience benefits such as:
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