One of the telltale signs that you’re entering into menopause is when you start experiencing hot flashes on a regular basis, but what about right after you have a baby? Are postpartum hot flashes just part of the process, or are they something more? Don’t worry, you’re not instantly going from pregnant to menopausal after the birth of a baby — but the hot flashes you experience in each situation aren’t completely unrelated.
What Causes Postpartum Hot Flashes?
Much like during pregnancy and menopause, the postpartum period is full of wild hormonal changes that impact everything from your mood to your breastfeeding experience to the way your body behaves. During menopause, the hot flashes you experience are the result of a drop in the hormone estrogen, which also happens as your body gets back to normal after having a baby. “Estrogen is produced by the placenta during the pregnancy,” explains Karroll P McGregor, MD, an OB/GYN at Atrium Health Women’s Care, “After the placenta is delivered, the amount of estrogen that is available decreases significantly.” When this happens, McGregor says it affects the portion of the brain that regulate’s the body’s temperature, which often results in postpartum hot flashes and night sweats.
Are Postpartum Hot Flashes Normal?
While they’re certainly unpleasant to experience, postpartum hot flashes following delivery are also quite normal. Unlike postpartum chills, however, you most likely won’t experience them immediately following your baby’s birth, but rather a few days later. “Further out from delivery, days to weeks, some women will report hot flashes [or] feeling a sudden warmth and even sweating,” Elizabeth Gresham Livingston, MD, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine, tells Romper in an email. She further explains that while most women will experience immediate postpartum chills after delivery, postpartum hot flashes aren’t quite as widespread. In fact, one study found that only around 10% of women report having hot flashes in the first month following the birth of a baby. But, even if you’re part of this minority, rest assured that postpartum hot flashes are normal.
When To Worry About Postpartum Hot Flashes
You can expect your postpartum hot flashes to fade away as your hormone levels balance back out in the days and weeks following delivery, but if you’re still experiencing them by the time you go to your six or eight-week follow up appointment with your provider, it may be worth mentioning to them, just so it's on their radar. Besides that, Livingston says if that if the hot flashes are also accompanied by any other sign of illness, then you should contact your provider. McGregor agrees, and adds, “If a fever or ‘localizing symptoms’ develop — like worsening abdominal pain, pain with urination, breast redness or pain — the symptoms can all suggest an infection rather than just a hot flash.”
Really, the only thing you can do is simply ride out the postpartum hot flashes until they fade away, so until then, dress in layers that you can easily remove as needed and keep plenty of water nearby to help you cool down. Don’t worry, the sweats will be gone before you know it, and luckily you’ll have a needy newborn to provide plenty of distraction in the meantime.
Elizabeth Gresham Livingston, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Duke University School of Medicine