Most moms-to-be expect symptoms like morning sickness, swollen feet, and food cravings as their pregnancy progresses. But the first time you experience a pregnancy hot flash – a sudden rush of warmth that can leave your entire body drenched in sweat – it might be quite a shock.

If you associate hot flashes with menopause instead of pregnancy, you’re not alone. Hot flashes are by far the most common symptom of menopause, affecting about 75% of women. But hot flashes often happen during pregnancy as well, sometimes decades before menopause are even a thought.

TopLine MD Alliance affiliated women’s health providers are here to guide you through every stage of pregnancy, including unexpected symptoms like hot flashes. Keep reading to learn why pregnancy hot flashes happen, what you can do to manage them, and other helpful details about this “hot” topic.

How common are hot flashes during pregnancy?

Hot flashes are usually low on the list of popular pregnancy symptoms (or not on the list at all). But more than one-third of pregnant women – 35%, according to recent studies – will experience hot flashes during their pregnancy.

While you can experience this symptom in early pregnancy, it tends to be more common in the second and third trimester. Some women also have them after giving birth. Women who are overweight, obese, or have high blood pressure are more likely to have hot flashes while pregnant. However, they can happen to anyone.

What does a pregnancy hot flash feel like?

Like menopause-related hot flashes, a hot flash during pregnancy can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes and range from mild to severe. It typically feels like a sudden burst of warmth or heat in your upper body (face, neck, or chest) and can also cause:

  • Sweating
  • Red, blotchy skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Chills and/or clammy skin after the hot flash passes

Hot flashes can happen anytime, day or night. The ones that occur at night (also called night sweats) can wake you up covered in sweat – as if pregnancy doesn’t already make getting a good night’s sleep challenging enough.

Why do pregnancy hot flashes happen?

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes are believed to be the primary culprit behind hot flashes during pregnancy. Your estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate throughout pregnancy to support the growing fetus. Estrogen also affects your hypothalamus gland, which regulates body temperature. These hormonal changes can trigger your body’s thermoregulatory system, leading to sudden feelings of warmth and rapid sweating.

Increased blood flow

During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by up to 50%. In response, your blood vessels dilate to accommodate the extra blood, bringing blood closer to your skin’s surface which makes you feel warmer.

Rising metabolic rate

Growing a fetus requires a lot of energy. As your metabolic rate increases—due to higher body mass, increased cardiac output, and other physiological changes associated with pregnancy—it can also result in heat surges.

Are there other triggers for pregnancy hot flashes?

Yes, there are many other triggers that can exacerbate hot flashes during pregnancy, and unlike hormonal changes, these triggers are easier to control:

  •  Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Hot weather
  • Overheated rooms
  • Exercising too strenuously
  • Tight clothing
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods

Can pregnancy hot flashes harm me or my baby?

For most moms-to-be, hot flashes during pregnancy are a normal physiological response and do not pose any significant risks to you or your baby. However, it is important to be able to differentiate if you have a fever vs. a hot flash. Despite all the redness and sweating that can result, a hot flash does not raise your body temperature – but a fever does.

If your temperature is over 100.4°F for more than a day or two, contact your doctor. Fevers during pregnancy can be dangerous and may be a sign of infection.

What can I do to manage hot flashes during pregnancy?

If you’re fever-free but keep experiencing hot flashes, these tips can help you cope:

  • Stay hydrated (pregnant women should drink at least 8-12 cups of water per day)
  • Carry water with you to drink if you feel a hot flash coming
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol throughout your pregnancy
  • Stay indoors during hot weather
  • If you go outside, stay in the shade as often as possible
  • Take a cool shower or bath if you feel overheated
  • Dress in layers so you can remove or add clothing as needed
  • Wear light, breathable fabrics
  • Use air conditioning and portable fans
  • Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing

Pregnancy is a transformative journey filled with a multitude of changes, both expected and unexpected. Few pregnant women are prepared for the onset of hot flashes, especially when they are years ahead of menopause. But the right doctor can give you the support and information you need to manage them successfully.

TopLine MD Alliance affiliated women’s health specialists span across multiple specialties including gynecology, obstetrics, maternal fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, reconstruction, and urogynecology. Take the first step today and find a TopLine MD provider near you.