- WHAT ARE HOT FLASHES?
- HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE HOT FLASHES?
- WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HOT FLASHES?
- WHY DO PREGNANT WOMEN HAVE HOT FLASHES?
- IS IT NORMAL FOR A PREGNANT WOMAN TO HAVE HOT FLASHES?
- WILL I CONTINUE HAVING HOT FLASHES AFTER GIVING BIRTH?
- HOW CAN I HANDLE PREGNANCY HOT FLASHES?
- SHOULD I TAKE ANY MEDICATION?
- DO ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS WORK?
- SHOULD I BE WORRIED FOR MY BABY IF I EXPERIENCE HOT FLASHES?
- DO MEN HAVE HOT FLASHES AS WELL?
- BOTTOM LINE
Pregnancy comes with a lot of body changes, thanks to – or should I say, because of – hormonal imbalances. You know, those little nuisances which suddenly make us cry for no reason at all or make us crave for ice cream at 3 AM. Something else which comes along with hormonal imbalances? Hot flashes.
WHAT ARE HOT FLASHES?
While hot flashes aren’t necessarily alarming, they are quite uncomfortable. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat – and I am not talking about the kind of heat you feel when you watch Magic Mike XXL. You feel your chest, shoulders, neck or face burning and the feeling can last anywhere to a few seconds to half an hour. You can get this overheated sensation regardless if it’s summer or winter, sweating profusely and even having a quickened heartbeat and blurred vision. Since pregnancy hot flashes often come out of the blue, they can seriously disrupt you both day and night. You can feel overwhelming heat comparable with sitting in a sauna for a couple of minutes, then feel instant chill. Hot flashes happening during the night are also known as night sweats and their unpredictability might make you have a hard time sleeping.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE HOT FLASHES?
If being pregnant is like having a bun in the oven, having hot flashes is almost like literally BEING the oven carrying the bun. Just imagine an intense feeling of heat rushing through your whole body and starting to sweat in a matter of seconds – even if you are in the middle of the winter. It could be freezing cold, but you will be flooded with sweat, trying to breathe. You will double check to see if your skin is not on fire and you will want to take all your clothes off – which you can actually do, if you are lucky enough to be at a beach and wear a bikini exactly when that happens. As you try to find a place where to cool off, that sudden feeling of heat goes away and lets you with a totally opposite one, of chill. The reason why you feel instant chill is because of the sweat drying. Some women learn to know when a hot flash is coming, which gives them precious seconds to stay safe, before the heat takes over.
Hot flashes are extremely common. According to a report, about 75% perimenopausal women in the United States alone claim to suffer from hot flashes.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HOT FLASHES?
- A sudden feeling of heat. You feel your face, neck, torso – heck, pretty much your entire body, burning.
- Redness present especially in your face and neck. If your skin tone is light, this will be even more prominent.
- Fast pulse and heartbeat. Your heart is palpitating and the pulse is going crazy, for no particular reason.
- Perspiration. You start sweating, which can range between mild and profound
- Cold chill. After hot flashes, you feel a sudden burst of coldness.
- Night sweats. Self explanatory – you wake up during the night, feeling hot and having difficulty breathing.
- Other symptoms include headaches, anxiety and blurriness.
WHY DO PREGNANT WOMEN HAVE HOT FLASHES?
Scientists haven’t managed to establish a cause for it yet, although researches and studies show that the way the brain responds to the level change of the hormones during pregnancy is responsible for these sudden bursts. When you are pregnant, the estrogen levels are lowered, while on the contrary, the level of the hormones FSH and LH rises. This switch prompts the brain to release more norepinephrine and epinephrine through your blood circulation; this affects your sleep patterns and body temperature, being also responsible for your sudden mood swings. While it is believed that these hormonal anomalies cause hot flashes, the exact way the two are connected hasn’t been established yet.
IS IT NORMAL FOR A PREGNANT WOMAN TO HAVE HOT FLASHES?
Even though hot flashes can become bothersome, it’s completely normal for a pregnant woman to experience them. What is not normal however is when these hot flashes are accompanied by fever. The sensation of heat should only be a passing one, but if the temperature of your body is increasing, make sure you talk to a doctor, to avoid other possible complications during pregnancy. Remember that the heat is just a feeling that should only last for a couple of minutes.
WILL I CONTINUE HAVING HOT FLASHES AFTER GIVING BIRTH?
Most of the time, hot flashes kick in after the first trimester, while in the second one, you will start feeling them more prominently and frequently. After giving birth, it is possible to still experience hot flashes for a couple of months more, until your body finishes producing the milk you need for breastfeeding. Hot flashes aren’t related to pregnancy only; you can also get them if you have your ovaries removed (they produce the estrogen) or if you take certain inhibitors, like GnRH. Basically, all the medicine which is meant to decrease the level of estrogen in your body can cause hot flashes. If the largest endocrine gland (thyroid, that is) isn’t functioning properly either, that too can be a cause for hot flashes.
HOW CAN I HANDLE PREGNANCY HOT FLASHES?
Dealing with hot flashes can be tricky, because even though you feel a heat wave on the inside, your body temperature usually doesn’t go over the normal 98.6 degrees. However, there are ways you can ensure that the hot flashes are not affecting you more than they should and that you don’t stress out over them – which is something that could possibly affect your pregnancy. Here are some tips to help you handle them:
- Don’t sleep in a heated room. During winter, this shouldn’t be a problem, but during summer, if you don’t have AC, sleep can become complicated even if you don’t experience hot flashes, because you will keep rolling from one side of the bed to another, trying to get rid of the body heat. It’s very easy for sleep deprivation to settle in during pregnancy, so make sure that the bedroom is cool before going to sleep. This way, if you experience flashes during the night, you won’t feel like gasping for air.
- Avoid the sunlight. By this, I don’t mean that you should stay in a dark room all day like a mole, but don’t exaggerate when it comes to sunbathing. Never go out on a sunny day without protection – make sure that not only you use sunscreen, but you also wear hats which protect your face from direct light.
- Water is your best friend. Stay hydrated throughout the day and don’t leave the house without taking a bottle of water with you, in case an emergency shows up and you don’t have a place to buy it from. Cold drinks also keep your body temperature from rising.
- Stay cool in more than one way. A cool room is not the only thing you need when dealing with hot flashes – you also have to stay cool mentally. When heat invades your body and you are having heavy perspiration, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Don’t panic and don’t stress over it – this too shall pass. To cut down on stress, consider practicing yoga or meditation. Also remember to breathe normally when going through a hot flash and to resist the urge to panic, because it only worsens the sensation of hotness. If you have difficulty breathing during a hot flash, those yoga sessions will come in handy. Consider approaching your mom friends for comfort and help on how to stay chill.
- Wear comfortable clothes, so that you can easily remove the layers if a hot flash is making its way. It’s recommended to use cotton clothing instead of synthetic, because the latter doesn’t release any heat – it will all stay trapped and you will feel incredibly uncomfortable. So what if they are not fashionable? It’s the comfort that matters.
- Avoid coffee and spicy food, if you feel that your hot flashes get worse when consuming them. Cigarettes can also trigger hot flashes, not to mention that smoking in general is unhealthy for your baby, so it is strongly recommended to withhold from it.
- Mini fans are also extremely helpful when you need to cool off quickly. Plus, they fit perfectly in your purse. Carry them with you all the time, to keep yourself fresh wherever, whenever.
- Take more than one shower per day. Showering is probably the activity mostly related to daydreaming, because it’s pretty much the only place in the house where you can hear your thoughts. However, showers also help you freshen up throughout the day, so that when a hot flash hits you, it will feel less uncomfortable.
- Check alternative methods with your doctor to control your hot flushes, if have a tough time bearing with them. Remedies include flaxseed, soy and mild sedatives, meant to normalize blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Keep your weight in control. This is an issue that has nothing to do with cosmetic reasoning, but it’s purely health-related. According to various studies, exercising and following a healthy diet decreases the chances of having hot flashes.
SHOULD I TAKE ANY MEDICATION?
If your hot flashes seriously affect your everyday life, to the point that you are sleep deprived, you might want to talk to your doctor. Recommendations might include hormone replacement therapy, since you would need to increase the level of your estrogen. However, make sure you start such a therapy only after reviewing your medical history with your doctor, because taking hormones increase the risk of strokes and other serious health-related issues.
While some antidepressants like fluoxetine and paroxetine can also reduce the hot flashes, such medication is generally not recommended for pregnant women. High blood pressure medication like clonidine, while proven to be helpful in cases of hot flashes, is more recommendable to menstrual hot flashes rather than pregnant women experiencing it. Data from the Michigan Medicaid Birth Defects Study has revealed that there is quite a high number of birth defects associated with clonidine. A new research seems to suggest that injecting a local anesthetic right into the nerves which are located in the neck can significantly reduce the number of hot flashes, although this treatment has been used so far only for patients suffering from cancer. As always, make sure you always discuss about medication (vitamins included) with your doctor in advance, before making any decision on your own.
DO ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS WORK?
Supplements like vitamin D, vitamin E and fish oil can act like hormone stabilizers and if your doctor gives you the thumbs up, you can also experiment with acupuncture. While for a long while, it was believed that soybeans reduce hot flashes, especially because soy food is eaten in large quantities in Japan and Japanese women have significantly fewer pregnancy hot flashes, that’s not really the case. A recent study shows that while tofu and soy milk should be included in your diet because they are healthy options, if you start eating them hoping to have fewer hot flashes, they might not be too helpful in that regard.
SHOULD I BE WORRIED FOR MY BABY IF I EXPERIENCE HOT FLASHES?
As long as hot flashes are indeed hot flashes and not something else, there is absolutely no reason for you to be worried for the safety of your baby, since it’s a benign condition. Of course, the feeling of extreme heat is incredibly annoying and it’s understandable why so many moms-to-be wonder if their babies are all right. Rest assured, your baby will not be harmed at all. Once the level of your hormones will normalize, the hot flashes should stop and you will finally be able to sleep uninterrupted and not worry about feeling heat in all kinds of places.
DO MEN HAVE HOT FLASHES AS WELL?
Contrary to what Arnold Schwarzenegger tells you in ‘Junior’ – no, men can’t get pregnant. They don’t know how it feels to be pregnant or how it feels to have a menstruation; life’s pretty sweet for them. And they probably don’t know how it feels like to have hot flashes either, right? Well, men DO in fact experience hot flashes and it feels just as bad, according to Harvard Medical School.
While women experience hot flashes because of a drastic decrease in estrogen, this is not the case with men and testosterone. Testosterone barely has a 1% decrease and that mostly happens when men are in their 40s. However, hot flashes can be caused by a prostate cancer treatment called androgen deprivation therapy, which causes the testosterone level to drop.
In terms of symptoms, there is not much of a difference – again, a strong sensation of warmth taking over, all of a sudden. What’s interesting to note is that as a treatment, men can actually take female hormones as well (men suffering from prostate cancer can’t take testosterone). The HMS study says that more than 80% of men said that estradiol helped them feel relief, while 80-90% felt better after using medroxyprogesterone or megestrol.
Again, as it happens with women, most hot flash symptoms in men are treatable. Usually, they don’t even need any kind of treatment at all, since they are not serious enough to make them feel uncomfortable for long periods of time.
Remember that each treatment, no matter if we are talking about supplements or medication which doesn’t need any prescription, needs to be discussed with your doctor. Don’t do things of your own like, for instance, taking a certain pill just because it helped relieve your pain before pregnancy. Once the hormonal imbalance kicks in, it’s a whole different situation, not to mention that you have now a double responsibility on your hands and every action has a reaction.
The hot flashes probably won’t go down in history as being the thing you were proud the most of during your pregnancy. Sometimes, they can feel absolutely humiliating, depending on the place or the people present when it happens. Just imagine having a job presentation while pregnant and suddenly feeling as if you were in a sauna. Thankfully, following the tips presented in this article will help you get around the symptoms, so that you can enjoy your pregnancy at its fullest.
Whats’ the most embarrassing place where you’ve been suddenly hit by hot flashes and how did it go?
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