Hot Flashes Before Period: What You Need to Know

While most people associate hot flashes with menopause (the stopping of monthly periods), some women can also get them as part of their menstrual cycle (period).

About 1 in 10 women with regular periods experience hot flashes, while more than 4 in 10 women have hot flashes in the first years after menopause, according to a study.

This article will discuss hot flashes before your period, symptoms, causes, management, and more.

How to Manage Hot Flashes - Illustration by Shideh Ghandeharizadeh

Verywell / Shideh Ghandeharizadeh

What Are Hot Flashes?

During a hot flash, the upper half of your body will suddenly feel very hot, sweaty, and may become flushed. Generally, hot flashes during your period last from half a minute to several minutes.

Some people have hot flashes only once a day, and some have them much more often. If the hot flashes happen at night, they may cause night sweats due to the intense heat.

Hot flashes most often occur in the few years before and after menopause. Up to 80% of women report hot flashes during menopause. But some women have them as part of their typical menstrual period. Hot flashes are believed to occur due to changes in the level of the hormone estrogen that is produced by the ovaries.

Hormone levels change throughout the menstrual cycle and help build up the uterine lining, and then release it in the bleeding that occurs with your monthly period. Hormone cycles are very complex and studied by special doctors called endocrinologists

Hot flashes and night sweats can be symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Paying attention to and even writing down your body's changes can help you and your healthcare provider determine if your hot flashes are related to your period and your normal hormone changes. 

Symptoms of Hot Flashes

Symptoms of or associated with hot flashes include:

What Causes Hot Flashes?

Scientists believe that hot flashes are an overreaction of the body to a slight increase in your body temperature. The hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for keeping your body temperature stable, causes your body to do things to cool down.

The medical term for a hot flash is vasomotor symptoms. When your brain senses your body temperature rising, it causes blood vessels all over the body to dilate (get bigger) to try to cool your body. This causes flushing and a sensation of warmth on the skin. Intense heat may lead to sweating during the hot flash. As the body cools off, the moisture from sweating can lead to chills or damp clothing.

Perimenopause

Most women find that period hot flashes occur as they enter perimenopause, the time leading up to menopause, when a woman’s fertility (ability to have a baby) begins to gradually decrease, but she continues to have a period. 

In perimenopause you may experience changes to your menstrual cycle. There are always hormonal changes for women that cause their period as part of their cycle. As your body begins to age, it is normal for hormone levels to be less reliable, and the time between periods and the amount of bleeding often change.

Underlying Causes

Dropping estrogen levels are believed to be the causes of both period and menopause hot flashes. Part of the normal changes as you near menopause is for the female reproductive system to make fewer eggs and release fewer hormones as you age.

The medical community continues to learn more about menopause and hot flashes. There are ongoing studies looking at other hormones and signaling chemicals within the body.

Possible Hot Flash Triggers

There is ongoing research to see how much of a role different lifestyle behaviors may bring on hot flashes. Some triggers that have been reported to lead to hot flashes include:

  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Stress
  • Getting too warm
  • Being overweight or obese

How to Manage Hot Flashes

Hot flashes can be uncomfortable, but they are generally not dangerous. Because of this, healthcare providers will recommend focusing on symptom management. Unfortunately, there are no known ways to completely prevent hot flashes.

Staying cool may help you reduce how many hot flashes you have. When a hot flash happens, try to cool your body down. Possible techniques include:

  • Wearing layers and removing extra clothing
  • Using a fan to cool your body
  • Eating cool foods
  • Drinking cool drinks

Medications

Estrogen or progesterone supplements, also called hormone therapy (HT), have been frequently prescribed to manage hot flashes. However, there are certain conditions that make HT unsafe including stroke, breast cancer, and liver disease.

Antidepressant medications that increase the brain chemical serotonin have been helpful in managing hot flashes for some people. Doctors and scientists continue to study what works best for managing vasomotor symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes

You may want to consider lifestyle changes as your first approach to managing your hot flashes. Look for patterns in your food, activity, and lifestyle that may help you see what is triggering hot flashes. You may then be able to reduce or eliminate these to improve your symptoms.

Research shows that many of the previously believed lifestyle factors like alcohol, exercise, and diet have mixed evidence as risk factors. However, smoking and anxiety have a strong connection to hot flashes. Track your own experience and decide what works best for your body.

If you are overweight or obese, it can be more common to have hot flashes. Other research shows that maintaining a healthy weight can reduce hormonal hot flashes.

Alternative Treatments

Researchers continue to study alternative treatments to reduce or manage hot flashes. Unfortunately, there are no therapies that are consistently effective in the research. The North American Menopause Society position statement indicates there is no research evidence for yoga, exercise, acupuncture, herbal supplements, or relaxation as a way to manage hot flashes.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Most of the time, while hot flashes can be very uncomfortable and distressing, they are not usually a sign of a medical problem. Although there is generally no reason to be concerned by hot flashes, sometimes they can be a symptom of other conditions, so it is important to check with your healthcare provider if you start to experience them as part of your cycle.

Both of these conditions must be diagnosed by a healthcare provider based on period changes and blood tests. Neither of these is very common, but good communication with your healthcare team is the best way to address any concerns you may have.

Summary

Hot flashes, when you suddenly feel sweaty and flushed, is most often a symptom that menopause is near. However, you may find that you experience period hot flashes much earlier in life as part of your normal cycle. Some of the ways to manage hot flashes is to avoid spicy foods, drink cool beverages, and limit caffeine. Hot flashes are usually not medically concerning, but discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Hot flashes can be disruptive and feel embarrassing, especially if you end up soaked in sweat at work or the grocery store. Hot flashes are a normal part of life for almost half of women, but there are things that can help you manage them. Reach out to your healthcare team and see what they might recommend for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • At what age do hot flashes start?

    Hot flashes typically begin around 52, the average age when women experience menopause and go at least one full year without a period. They report that it is typical to have perimenopausal symptoms about four years before officially being in menopause. Women may start having hot flashes sometime in this transitional time, typically from about 45-50 years old.

  • What are the signs of your period coming?

    You may experience the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in the seven to 14 days before your period. These symptoms can include breast tenderness or swelling, cramping, headaches, back pain, fatigue, and mood swings.

  • Are hot flashes and night sweats the same?

    In most cases, night sweats are hot flashes that happen at night. In general, your body gets overheated and tries to cool you off by making the blood vessels near the skin wider and causing sweat. Usually, these are annoying, but not dangerous. However, there are some causes of hot flashes and night sweats that need immediate medical attention so always let your healthcare provider know if you start experiencing either condition.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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