There are so many surprises that come along with postpartum life — one of them being the infamous postpartum night sweats. Just when you think you’ve waved goodbye to the discomforts of pregnancy, you find yourself waking up in a pool of your sweat after your baby is born. Many changes occur in our bodies after we give birth and these changes occur due to fluctuations in hormone levels, lifestyle changes, physical recovery, emotional responses, and more. While postpartum night sweats are considered “normal,” they certainly aren’t fun! I will talk a bit about what causes them, what they might look like, and how to cope.
What You Need to Know About Postpartum Night Sweats
Whether you realize it or not, your body increases blood volume by 45% during pregnancy! With this comes significant fluid shifts that occur naturally during pregnancy and again after your baby is born. These fluid shifts may cause swelling, excessive urination, and postpartum night sweats! Not to mention the shifting in hormones such as progesterone and estrogen, which rise during pregnancy and plummet after delivery. If you’re a breastfeeding mama, you can expect estrogen levels to be low and prolactin levels to be high, which drive down estrogen levels even more. With that comes the major sweats!
What are night sweats?
You may find yourself waking up due to feeling hot, or perhaps you, your clothes, sheets, and pillow, are drenched! Heat flashes and night sweats are said to affect about 29% of mamas during the postpartum period. These are associated with sleep disturbance, irritability, and impairments of day-to-day living. Funny enough, I once woke up feeling like I had bugs crawling all over me when it was actually just beads of sweat! As if the nighttime feedings and middle-of-the-night diaper changes weren’t enough. Some mamas report their levels of anxiety can trigger hot flashes and postpartum night sweats as well. Of course, if you feel you’re experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression, please reach out to your healthcare providers.
How long will they stick around?
So how long will these postpartum night sweats plague you? Typically the sweats start shortly after birth. After about 2-4 weeks, once your hormones have tapered off and your body has rid itself of the extra fluid, you’ll find that they start to improve or maybe even disappear. Of course, like everything else, everyone is different. You may find that you never experience postpartum night sweats. Other mamas claim that they experience them months after giving birth.
How can I manage postpartum night sweats?
Managing this nuisance can help symptoms but probably won’t get rid of the postpartum night sweats completely. Here are some things you can do that might help:
1. Turn down the A/C or turn on a fan.
Keeping the body cool can help diminish the severity of postpartum sweats. Approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius) is the best bedroom temperature for sleep. This will vary by a few degrees from person to person. Most doctors recommend keeping the thermostat set between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius) for the most comfortable sleep.
2. Drink lots of water.
You’re probably thinking, “I thought this was happening because my body was trying to get rid of fluids?!” Yes, it’s true. But drinking water and staying hydrated can help your body flush out what it needs to while also preventing dehydration.
3. Wear loose and breathable clothing to sleep.
Natural fabrics such as cotton and linen will help prevent keeping body heat trapped in, which can be caused by fabrics such as polyester or lycra. Perhaps ditching clothing all together will help you sleep a bit more soundly!
4. Limit food and beverage triggers.
Some mamas will tell you that avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods will help keep those postpartum sweats at bay.
5. Incorporate deep breathing and relaxation techniques into your daily living.
As stated above, stress and anxiety can cause worsening hot flashes and postpartum night sweats. Managing stress and anxiety during the postpartum period has numerous benefits — far beyond improving postpartum night sweats.
6. Eat a well-balanced diet.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and after the birth of your baby is important as it aids in physical recovery, and some research shows eating soy foods can help diminish postpartum sweats.
7. Protect your sheets!
Place a towel underneath you when you sleep or a mattress protector on so you can wash your sheets without having to worry about ruining your mattress.
Should I be concerned about postpartum night sweats?
While the postpartum night sweats are normal, there are some instances in which I would recommend reaching out to your healthcare providers. As mentioned above, if you’re experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression, please reach out, but also if you experience any of the following:
- Fever (temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Body aches or chills
- Excessive fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Headache, blurry vision, swelling of hands, feet, or face
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in urinary or bowel patterns
Have no fear, mamas! Like the discomforts of pregnancy, the postpartum night sweats won’t last forever. Know that while you’re taking the proper steps to improve this postpartum side effect, you’re also improving other aspects of your health and well-being.