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Pregnancy night sweats: causes and what to do about it

Waking up drenched in sweat… nice. Unfortunately, for many of us, night sweats are just a part of this miraculous thing we call pregnancy. Indeed, most women experience night sweats (or nocturnal hyperhidrosis) at some point during their pregnancy, most commonly in the first or third trimester.

Your body is doing everything for two, and there’s a lot of energy that’s being burned up in order to do that. Sweating is, unfortunately, your body’s way of regulating this temperature increase. Why can’t we just be like dogs and use our tongues to regulate temperature instead, eh?

1. Changes in hormones

You can place a hefty chunk of the blame for night sweats on our old friends, hormones. Progesterone increases your body temperature while oestrogen does its best to lower the body temperature by upping the sweat factor.

2. More blood circulating

Did you know that a pregnant woman’s blood plasma volume increases by up to 40% during pregnancy? 😱 In fact, it continues to rise by up to 60% by the end of the third trimester. In order to cope with all this extra blood, your blood vessels widen to make room, much like adding an extra lane on the motorway. This means more blood at the skin’s surface, which causes you to feel much, much warmer.

3. Weight gain

With extra weight on board, your body has to work harder to do, well, pretty much everything. This extra effort equals more heat.

4. Low blood sugar levels

Your metabolism is working overtime during pregnancy to provide all the energy for you and your baby. If you’re not eating enough balanced calories throughout the day, you could experience low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia), which can result in night sweats.

5. Changes to your thyroid

Your thyroid, which regulates your metabolism and temperature, starts working harder during pregnancy in response to hormonal changes. This naturally causes a higher body temperature. But an overactive thyroid can make you especially hot and sweaty, and so it’s worth getting checked if you think you might be sweating beyond the expected increase, particularly if you have a history of thyroid issues.

6. Medication

Many different medicines can cause you to feel hot and sweaty, including antidepressants, cold medicine and indigestion medicine. You might want to check whether anything you’re taking comes with these unpleasant side effects, and make a call with your doctor from there.

7. Infections

Occasionally, night sweats are a sign of an infection. It’s very unlikely, but they could also be a sign of tuberculosis and lymphoma.

In order to manage your night sweats, you can try:

  • Drinking more water. Counter-intuitive, we know, particularly when you probably already feel like you’re peeing 57 times a night. But water will help your body regulate temperature better and will avoid dehydration, which can make you feel dizzy and faint.
  • Dressing in light, breathable clothing. Go for natural materials such as cotton or linen, as these wick moisture away from the skin.
  • Getting a handheld fan. This can be such a lifesaver, and pretty cheap too.
  • Avoiding hot drinks and spicy food as these can trigger sweating.
  • Layering up your bedding so that you can easily remove layers as and when you need. You might also like to sleep on a towel to avoid having to wash your sheets all the time!

In most cases, night sweats are nothing to worry about (despite being infuriating). But if your night sweats are very intense and aren’t going away, then it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor or midwife about them.