Hot flushes after birth – is this normal?
Expert advice on why you can get hot flushes and night sweats after your baby is born, plus mums share their own experiences
Burning up or dripping in sweat, despite having given birth? You are definitely not alone, with many mums suffering from hot flushes – or flashes – and night sweats for weeks post-pregnancy.
According to independent midwife Jacqui Tomkins, from the London Birth Practice, hot flushes cause concern for the majority of women after giving birth, particularly after a first pregnancy.
“New mums might be feeling a bit feverish, and they are not sure whether it is an infection, or they are developing mastitis,” explains Jacqui.
But, hot flushes post-birth are “normal and physiological”, she reassures.
When do hot flushes start after birth?
With 81% of women experiencing hot flashes during pregnancy, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, you may think that the fevers and sweats will come to an end after giving birth.
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But when your milk comes in, your body starts changing again because of an increase in levels of the hormone prolactin.
“Hot flushes are quite usual post-birth, because when your breast milk comes in your body increases in temperature by about half a degree,” explains Jacqui.
This normally happens about three days after giving birth, but Jacqui stresses that “every woman is different”.
But I’m bottle feeding, not breastfeeding – why am I getting hot flushes?
The body still produces prolactin and makes milk, even if you are not going to be breastfeeding, so there is still a rise in temperature.
However, because the prolactin hormone requires a “two-way action of milk production and a sucking baby”, the levels will reduce during bottle feeding, says Jacqui.
But those days before the milk starts to disappear can still result in hot flushes, she adds.
How long will the hot flushes last after giving birth?
Well, it’s a bit of a moveable feast, unfortunately.
“On average they can last about seven or eight days, but it has been known for some women to experience hot flushes, or night sweats, for up to six weeks,” says Jacqui.
But it can be even longer, as one of our forum mums, Mand-C, told us:
“After my dd was born 3 yrs ago I was terrible for sweating it was awful... I was always dripping... it lasted about 8 weeks after birth and then settled down, I was told it was hormones and excess fluids.”
What if I’m still getting hot flushes many months after birth?
Don’t panic right away, advises Jacqui, but start looking out for any other symptoms that might indicate a problem.
These could be:
- Lumpy/swollen breasts
- High temperature increase/fever (more than 0.5 degree)
- Flu-like symptoms
Jacqui advises taking your temperature every four hours and, if you are concerned, to visit your GP who can prescribe antibiotics if required.
But, “if there are no signs of infection, I would advise a mum to continue as she is, making sure to keep replacing fluids by drinking plenty of water”, adds Jacqui.
How can I deal with hot flashes?
Stay hydrated and try to keep cool. It may be hard if it’s the middle of the night and you’re in bed surrounded by a baby, your partner, and possibly a toddler too.
But be reassured the hot flashes won’t last forever – they are usually a few seconds to a few minutes.
“All women experience their temperature going up but some may be more aware of it than others,” says Jacqui.
What do other mums say about hot flushes after birth?
Plenty of our mums have experienced hot flushes and sweating after giving birth - some for just a couple weeks, and others for a fair few months...
"I was wondering how long this would last but wish I hadn't tried to find out now! 2 weeks after A was born I was hoping I'd be nearly done but apparently not! I've never sweated so much in my life," TinaTeaspoon tells MFM.
While anonymousmumdrum shares: "I had mine for ages after having O, I ended up sleeping on a towel at night so it would absorb the sweat. It's so, so rank xx"
“I had DD 6.5 Months ago. Right from when I gave birth. I have been sweating loads (have never sweated before!), been having hot flushes during the day and night and also having night sweats,” shares Little_Buggaroo.
“My dd is 14 weeks old now and I have had it almost every day and most nights!” adds MLM_and_baby_bump_Digby.
And Leah102 admits: “I have noticed since giving birth about 1-2wks after that I’m so much hotter then I previously was... I'm sweating more and am clammy and hot all the time. Then I seem to get even hotter "hot flushes" and I'm soaked through the night!”
"It's completely normal," adds MissisB. "I had them with Isla and again this time with Maya although not quite as bad. I sleep on a towel to save having to change the bed sheets every day. So glamorous isn't it!"
Magda Ibrahim is a freelance writer who has written for publications including The Times and Sunday Times, The Sun, Time Out, and the London Evening Standard, as well for MadeForMums.
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