If you’re pregnant, you have probably been advised by your doctor or formerly pregnant family members and friends about the many side effects of pregnancy. You know about nausea, swelling, aches and pains and hormonal mood swings, but you may not know that hot flashes can also be a side effect of pregnancy. Although these changes are normal as your body prepares for a new baby, that doesn’t always mean that they are tolerable. Hot flashes in pregnancy can be difficult to treat, but it is not impossible. Read on to find out how to make life easier for you and your growing baby.
Hot flashes are typically associated with menopause, but the truth is that hot flashes are caused by any change in estrogen and progesterone hormone levels. Estrogen normally balances the menstrual cycle while progesterone supports a pregnancy. Birth control, certain medications can cause these estrogen and progesterone changes, and, in this case, pregnancy. When hot flashes during pregnancy occurs, it’s typically due to a sudden increase or drop in the release of estrogen and progesterone. While the fetus is still inside the body, the release of estrogen and progesterone increases, and as soon as a woman gives birth, these hormonal levels drop suddenly.
During hot flashes in pregnancy, you may feel you have an increased body temperature, complete with sweating and warmer skin. During menopause, one solution to hot flashes and other hormonal changes can be estrogen therapy. While it is dangerous for mothers to undergo hormonal therapy while pregnant, one solution is to start hormonal therapy after the baby is delivered. Hot flashes can often last for up to two weeks after a baby is born. Although undergoing estrogen therapy immediately after giving birth might affect a mother’s breast milk supply, talk to your doctor to see if this is a viable option for you.
If you’re looking for immediate relief from hot flashes during pregnancy, you can use many of the same methods women use through menopause. In addition, consider keeping a handheld fan or ice pack handy, wearing clothing that can be removed if you get overheated and drinking plenty of water. You can also consider alternative medicinal methods such as acupuncture and acupressure. There are a few specific acupressure points that can help with hot flashes during pregnancy, including points near the heart for night sweats, points near the kidneys for clearing extra heat, points near the spleen to regulate the uterus and remove pain and a point two inches below the belly button which can help relieve heart palpitations.
If you don’t want to go to a professional acupuncturist, you can even perform some acupressure techniques at home. To apply the proper amount of pressure, lay down in a comfortable position, place a finger on one of the above-mentioned pressure points, and massage in a circular motion, slowly increasing to a deeper pressure for up to ten minutes at a time (East Village Acupuncture).
Another easy way to reduce hot flashes during pregnancy is by changing your diet and incorporating pregnancy-appropriate exercises into your daily routine. Although it’s normal for women to gain around 20 pounds throughout pregnancy, overweight women tend to suffer from more hot flashes than women of a healthy weight. You can add a few foods into your diet that contain natural estrogens or have estrogen-like qualities, such as chickpeas, pistachios, peanuts, apples, soybeans, soy products and flaxseed, the majority of which contain estrogen-like properties known as isoflavones. Generally, nuts and seeds, fish and any vegetables or leafy greens (except for anything spicy) tend to promote health during pregnancy and can help a mother-to-be avoid pesky hot flashes.
If you’re considering exercise to relieve your hot flashes during pregnancy, check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe to do so. Certain exercises are safer than others, depending on your stage of pregnancy and the development of your baby. You could even potentially take an exercise class specifically designed for pregnant women. In addition, it’s a great opportunity to meet other expecting mothers and learn which methods for soothing hot flashes have worked best for them. Exercising during pregnancy can reduce hot flashes and help prevent other birth complications, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and the need for a c-section.
If you’re unsure which exercises will be best for you and your baby, consider starting by just walking. You can also try swimming or water aerobics, riding a stationary bike, yoga, pilates, or even weight lifting as long as the weights are not too heavy. Swimming and water aerobics, in particular, can help relieve any lower back pain you might have — plus, the cool water can soothe hot flashes if they are relatively frequent.
It can be frustrating to experience hot flashes and other hormonal changes during pregnancy, but keep in mind that most of these will only be temporary. There are solutions to support the health of both you and your baby and return your body to its typical temperature!