Like other pregnancy-related discomforts, hot flashes or hot flushes are also caused by hormonal fluctuations. This article explains the causes of hot flashes during pregnancy, and how to manage them.
Hot flashes are usually associated with menopause. We all know that it is quite common for women to experience hot flashes and night sweats during menopause due to a change in the level of the hormone estrogen. However, pregnant women can also experience hot and cold flashes in early pregnancy. Approximately, 50 to 70% pregnant women experience them during pregnancy.
An episode of hot flash can last for about 30 seconds to 5 minutes. During this period, one can experience a sensation of intense heat, especially in the upper part of the body like the chest, neck, face, and the head. This is then followed by heavy sweating, rapid heartbeat, and flushing of the face, neck, and the chest.
What Causes Hot flushes in Early Pregnancy?
Hot flushes are primarily caused by hormonal fluctuations. During pregnancy, the levels of both estrogen and progesterone fluctuate. A change in the level of the hormone estrogen can manifest in hot flashes. A few studies have pointed out that a low level of estrogen can be responsible for causing this problem during menopause and pregnancy. But some other studies have revealed that it is not the low level of estrogen, but a fluctuation in the level of this hormone that triggers hot flushes.
In addition to hormonal fluctuations, the core body temperature increases during pregnancy. This can also trigger hot flashes. Another possible reason could be stress, which can stimulate the release of norepinephrine and epinephrine into the bloodstream. These hormones can increase the blood flow and heat in the body, which can result in hot flushes. Apart from these, this condition can be triggered by factors like drinking hot beverages and caffeinated beverages, alcohol consumption, eating spicy foods, taking a hot bath, and anxiety.
Dealing with Hot Flashes
A balanced diet and regular physical activity or exercise (those recommended by your physician) can help control hot flushes during pregnancy. Swimming is a great exercise for managing this condition. During an episode of hot flash, fans or air conditioners can be used to get temporary relief. In fact, pregnant women should use fans or air conditioners while doing any physical activity, especially while exercising.
They should limit the consumption of spicy foods and hot beverages, if such factors seem to trigger hot flushes. Alcohol consumption can also be a contributing factor for hot flashes, and so, it is important to limit alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Pregnant women should also quit smoking, which can not only help reduce the episodes of hot flushes, but lower the risk of many other diseases as well.
Hot flushes can be managed with relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation as well. Inclusion of soy and soy products in the diet can also provide relief. Pregnant women should wear comfortable and loose-fitting, breathable clothing, and drink of plenty of water throughout the day to cope with hot flushes. There are some over-the-counter medications available in the market for this condition. But pregnant women should never use any drug without consulting their health care providers.
To sum up, hot flashes in early pregnancy are not uncommon, and they are usually not associated with any major health problem. However, they can sometimes occur in the night and prevent an expectant mother from getting adequate sleep. If they become frequent and troublesome, it is better to talk to your physician. With the help of your physician, you can find an effective way to manage this condition.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.