Are Hot Flashes a Sign of Pregnancy?

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Hot flashes are heat sensations on the skin or excessive warmth that comes on suddenly in the upper body. They mainly affect the face, neck, and chest. A person experiencing a hot flash may sweat profusely and their skin may go red. While hot flashes are generally associated with menopause, over one-third of pregnant people will experience them during the course of their pregnancy.

This article discusses the causes of hot flashes during pregnancy and how to cope.

Expecting girl feeling unwell in summertime

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Are Hot Flashes a Sign of Pregnancy?

Hot flashes can appear at any point in a person’s pregnancy.

While they typically peak in the third trimester, one study examined how they appeared throughout pregnancy and found that within the first 20 weeks, as many as 18% of people developed hot flashes. In total, 35% of people reported hot flashes at some point throughout their pregnancy, and 29% experienced them after delivery.

Is It Safe?

Hot flashes during pregnancy are typically harmless. However, overheating while you are pregnant can be dangerous. Research has found that heat stress during pregnancy can lead to issues with the spinal cord and backbone development of the unborn baby.

However, hot flashes don’t typically raise core body temperature by a significant amount, so it’s not always a cause for concern if you’re pregnant and experiencing hot flashes.

Heat and Pregnancy

Overheating during pregnancy can lead to birth defects. Because of this, pregnant people should avoid doing things that could cause their body to overheat, such as intense exercise in which their heart rate is at its maximum, or sitting in hot baths or saunas for longer than 20 minutes. Spending time outdoors on extremely hot days should also be limited or avoided altogether.

What Causes Hot Flashes in Pregnancy?

Hot flashes are typically caused by changing hormones in menopausal people, and the same can be said for the hot flashes that occur during pregnancy.

When a person becomes pregnant, their levels of estrogen and progesterone increase so that the baby can develop healthily. This rise in hormones drives hot flashes.

An increase in blood flow throughout the body to support the pregnancy can also cause pregnancy-related hot flashes.

How Early Do Hot Flashes in Pregnancy Start?

Hot flashes can begin in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. In some cases, they may be one of the first signs. However, they can occur during all points of pregnancy and typically peak during the third trimester.

Postpartum hot flashes have also been documented. They are typically at their worst two weeks following birth.

Can Hot Flashes Tell You You're Pregnant?

While hot flashes can be an early sign of pregnancy, they don’t occur in all women. Only roughly 18% of pregnant women will experience hot flashes in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other early signs of pregnancy include:

Tips for Coping With Hot Flashes During Pregnancy

Hot flashes are unpleasant, so if you are pregnant, developing effective coping strategies will help you get through them and keep your baby from feeling the effects.

Hot flashes during pregnancy can be managed the same way as menopausal hot flashes. To cope with them, you can:

  • Wear layers, so that if you have a hot flash, you can remove a layer or two.
  • Use a portable fan to cool yourself while the hot flash occurs.
  • Avoid hot flash triggers, such as spicy food.
  • Try meditating.
  • Carry around a water bottle with you wherever you go so that you can stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • Apply a cold pack to the back of your neck and wait for the hot flash to pass.

Medication to Help With Hot Flashes

The medications typically used for hot flashes in menopausal women should not be taken by pregnant women. If your hot flashes are particularly severe, you can speak to your healthcare provider about possible alternative options to the ones listed above.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Hot flashes usually do not require a trip to your healthcare provider. However, you should make an appointment if you are experiencing a fever. Fevers during pregnancy have been linked to negative health outcomes in unborn babies and should be addressed as quickly as possible.

Summary

Hot flashes are periods of extreme heat localized to the upper body, mainly the face, neck, and chest. They cause feelings of excessive warmth, with possible reddening of the skin and excessive sweating.

Not everyone will experience hot flashes during pregnancy, but up to one-third of people do over the course of their pregnancy. This is due to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, as well as increases in blood flow. While hot flashes are not necessarily dangerous during pregnancy, they can be if they are accompanied by a fever.

To cope with hot flashes, you should stay hydrated, use an ice pack, carry a fan, and dress in layers. If the hot flashes are particularly bothersome, you can speak to your healthcare provider about other options.

A Word From Verywell

Hot flashes, just like other symptoms of pregnancy, can be hard to cope with. For many, dealing with unwanted symptoms can make the pregnancy experience less enjoyable. Fortunately, if you get hot flashes during pregnancy, you likely don’t have to worry about your baby’s health. The best thing you can do is take care of your body so that your baby develops healthily.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it normal to get hot flashes during early pregnancy?

    Hot flashes are completely normal during early pregnancy. Not all pregnant people will experience them, though. Roughly one-third of all pregnancies will have hot flashes as a symptom.

  • What helps with pregnancy hot flashes?

    The same things that help with menopausal hot flashes can help with pregnancy hot flashes. They include using a handheld fan or ice pack when the hot flash strikes, wearing layers so you can take them off if you have a hot flash, and staying hydrated by drinking cold water.

  • Is it safe to take a hot bath while pregnant?

    Heat stress can negatively affect the health of your unborn baby. Studies have shown that taking a hot bath for a short amount of time isn’t dangerous. Be sure to stay in a hot bath for no longer than 20 minutes to avoid any heat stress on your body and baby.

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6 Sources
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