I woke up in a puddle of my own sweat. As I got out of bed, waves of heat and nausea flowed over me. I ran to the bathroom to throw up and thought to myself: could I be going through menopause? I had no idea that pregnant people can experience hot flashes, too. I Googled my symptoms, took a pregnancy test, and sure enough, I was pregnant. I continued to have hot flashes throughout my pregnancy, but they didn't mirror the stereotype of a woman fanning herself dramatically. Pregnancy hot flashes actually feel so different. In fact, they feel worse.
According to BabyCenter, about a third of pregnant people experience hot flashes due to drops in hormone levels. The site makes it sounds so normal, but in my experience, hot flashes felt weird and markedly unpleasant. In other words, not normal at all. Sometimes I would get so hot at night I'd throw all the blankets on the floor, only to discover that it was freezing in our house. Then I'd end up doing this exhausting dance between wanting to be snuggled in all the covers and wanting absolutely nothing to touch my burning body. And trust me when I say that's a difficult dance to follow, dear reader, because I had a husband, cats, and sometimes children in my bed.
To make matters worse, I was lucky enough to be pregnant in the summertime, so getting cool was difficult all on its own. Hot flashes were literally the last thing I needed. I had hyperemesis gravidarum, too, and was so nauseated that I couldn’t eat. Did you know that having low blood sugar makes hot flashes worse? FML. I felt dizzy, unbearably warm, nauseated, and like I had no ability to control what was happening in my body. It really sucked.
So yeah, there are a few things that pregnancy hot flashes actually feel like, and none of them are particularly pleasant.
I woke up so many mornings sure that I had either wet the bed or my water had broken. But no, it was just a puddle of sweat from my pregnancy hot flashes.
I felt like I was on fire. It was the kind of heat you feel when you go running in the summer sun — starting from your core, while the sun burns your shoulders. You feel like you can't cool down, no matter how many popsicles you eat or glasses of ice cold water you drink.
My hot flashes were accompanied by unrelenting nausea and vomiting, because apparently being hot and pregnant is not bad enough. Oh no, to complete the ensemble you also need to smell like vomit. And when my blood sugar would get low, my hot flashes would get worse, which made my nausea increase. Yes, this is by far the worst carnival ride known to man.
Have you ever seen an old cartoon of someone in the desert? You know, the one where that unfortunate person is so thirsty and dizzy they start to imagine a mirage, somewhere off in the distance? Yeah, it's like that, except I was imagining a frozen margarita and not being pregnant anymore.
My hot flashes made my head hurt, which in turn made me anxious that I was dying or there was something wrong with me. I called the nurse line at my midwife's office so many times. Ironically, I was later diagnosed with preeclampsia, for which headaches are a symptom, but at the time, nope, it was just the hot flashes.
I felt like waves of heat were flowing over me at an unrelenting speed. It was like they were rising off of hot pavement or I was in a giant ocean-sized hot tub. I couldn't get cool. I would park my giant pregnant self in front of the air conditioner or in a kiddie pool in our backyard the entire summer, and still feel like I was sitting on the surface of the damn sun.
Sometimes it felt like I was in a sauna past the amount of time that one should stay safely. On the bright side, I definitely sweat out any "toxins" in my body. On the downside, however and unlike being in a sauna, I couldn't leave.
Here's a truth bomb for you: when I'm pregnant, I smell bad. No matter how many times I showered or applied deodorant, I couldn't escape it. Hot flashes made my pregnancy stench so much worse. My husband assures me that it was just me, and my heightened pregnancy sense of smell. Gawd, I hope so. Because I am pretty sure I now know what a dumpster fire smells like.
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