Hot flushes and flashes in pregnancy
Find out if hot flashes mean you're pregnant, what they feel like and how to deal with them, with help from midwife Helen Taylor and experiences from other mums
Hot flushes – or hot flashes – are indeed a pregnancy symptom. They affect more than 80% of mums-to-be at some stage in their pregnancy, and some women start having them in the very early weeks of pregnancy.
Just how early can hot flushes start?
They can start straight away following conception, and some mums-to-be identify them as one of their earliest pregnancy symptoms.
But independent midwife Helen Taylor, of Midwife Care, warns that hot flushes are “not the most common symptom of early pregnancy by a long way and I wouldn’t describe them as a reliable sign of pregnancy” – especially if they’re you’re only symptom.
Look out for other early signs of pregnancy too, such as:
- Sore breasts
- Increased emotions
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Spotting and cramps
- Increased vaginal discharge
- More sensitive to smells
- Craving new foods or going off foods
* Find out more about all the early signs of pregnancy
Forum poster Mummy_2be tested positive 3 days before her period was due, after experiencing symptoms including hot flashes, sore throat and enlarged breasts.
“Tested this morning and got very faint 2nd line. For those of you who can't resist symptom spotting (sorry if TMI): enlarged bb and extremely sore big nipples from 1dpo [days post-ovulation], hot flashes/raised temperature, very emotional (just feel like crying all the time), had runny nose/sore throat, not sleeping well.”
One of our forum users, Miracles do Happen, found hot flashes were among the pregnancy symptoms she experienced early on, after trying to conceive for almost 4 years.
“Before I found out I was pregnant, my period was 5 days late and I had bad cramps as if my period was coming. I also had hot flashes, a headache, and I was sick every night.”
What does a hot flush feel and look like?
Intense heat spreads throughout the upper body for anywhere from thirty seconds to five minutes - typically starting in the neck and head.
But like so many pregnancy symptoms, they can feel different for different people. For example. they could start lower down in the body, and be shorter, or longer in time.
One mum-to-be myturnforabfp even experienced hot flashes in her legs. “Yesterday my hands were freezing and my legs were sweating.”
For SOP1 a red hot face was a telltale sign. “Last night my face started burning up from the neck upwards and it's returned this morning.”
Sealeyb experienced her hot flushes at night. “I had lower back ache at night and also one night of hot sweats.”
How do you deal with hot flushes?
The best advice is to try to stay cool:
- Wear loose clothing. Choose natural fibres if possible as these are more breathable than synthetic fibres
- Keep your room cool – you could use an electric fan or keep a breeze coming through
- Refresh your face and skin with cold water or a light water spray
- Try to avoid hot, crowded rooms, trains or buses – although that’s easier said than done
What causes hot flushes?
Nobody's quite sure why you get these flashes of feeling hot, but common triggers include spicy foods, hot drinks, alcohol, low blood sugar and stress.
Some research shows that fluctuating levels of oestrogen may be a cause. “In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, pregnancy hormones surge to high levels,” explains midwife Helen. “They have the job of ‘maintaining’ the pregnancy until the placenta is developed, which is around 12 weeks. This surge of hormones is what is responsible for the ‘symptoms’ of pregnancy.”
Your body temperature (called Basal Body Temperature or BBT) rises by up to a degree when you ovulate. Scientists found that women’s temperature then tended to stay at that increased level until about the 5th month of pregnancy.
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Did you know you also have more blood flowing round your body and at a faster rate when you’re pregnant? This boosts metabolism, which can raise body temperature.
Do hot flushes affect your baby?
Rest assured, despite the strange sensation of extreme heat coursing through your body for a few seconds or minutes, hot flashes do not affect your unborn baby.
“Hot flushes will not harm your baby at all,” reassures midwife Helen.
When will the hot flushes stop?
This is a tricky one – as they can last anything from a few weeks to right through the whole pregnancy, and even after your baby is born! Joy!
“For some women the first 12 weeks can be very challenging on a day to day level, whereas others can breeze through it,” says Helen. “Once the placenta is fully formed, it takes over maintenance of the pregnancy, and so the hormones settle down.
“For most women (but be warned, unfortunately not all!) you’ll return to feeling normal around the start of your second trimester.”
Not so for EmmaandAoifeBelle, who was still experiencing hot flushes at 33 weeks pregnant: “I'm feeling very sicky, dizzy and having hot flashes.”
Even more of a hot flush veteran, lulu1885 was 1.5cm dilated and having contractions at 37 weeks, along with hot flushes: “Hot flashes really bad. There's just so much going on.”
And in her third trimester, hot flushes became particularly noticeable for TulipRose: “They come out of nowhere and my whole face goes almost purple and I feel a bit funny and have to sit down.”
Celebrity hot flushers!
Pregnant celebrities also suffer, as Celine Dion found out when pregnant for the second time: “The first two months I really felt the symptoms, the morning sickness, hot flushes, nausea,” the 42-year-old told French magazine Paris Match in 2010.
Singer Lily Allen also experienced hot flushes when pregnant in 2011, tweeting “Does not feel like July at all, but that's good cause I'm preggers and hating the heat.”
Are you more likely to get hot flushes in the summer than in the winter?
While summer heat can make you feel a lot more overheated, our mums found those hot flushes could be equally troublesome in winter.
Fellow MFMer Simonealso struggled when pregnant with her daughter: “I was sooooo hot I had the windows open and the fan on at night time! Even the week before she was due, when the weather was colder, I was boiling!”
But we think one mum-to-be's experience trumps everything, when her pregnancy transported her to a tropical island...
“Every night I'm so hot it feels like I'm in the Bahamas!" says Helen. "Last night it was -4C and I was sweating so much I had to take a cold shower!”
Magda Ibrahim is a freelance writer who has written for publications including The Times and Sunday Times, The Sun, and the London Evening Standard, as well for MadeForMums.
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