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What to Do About Night Sweats During Pregnancy

Sweating through your PJs and sheets? Night sweats are a normal part of pregnancy—but there are a few things you can do to keep yourself cool and comfortable.
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Published November 29, 2023
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It’s no secret that being pregnant can mess with your sleep, whether you’re experiencing insomnia or getting up to pee a million times. But there’s yet another middle-of-the-night nuisance you might experience during pregnancy: night sweats. If you’re waking up drenched in sweat, know that it’s a normal symptom of pregnancy. But what causes pregnancy night sweats—and when should you talk to your doctor? Read on for what you should know about sweating during pregnancy.

In this article:

What Are Night Sweats During Pregnancy?

Night sweats, including those you might experience during pregnancy, are drenching sweats that are intense enough to soak through clothes and bedding, according to Cleveland Clinic. You might feel a sudden wave of heat coming on and your heart might race, causing you to wake up in a cold sweat. Over a third of women report experiencing “nighttime hot flashes” during pregnancy and/or postpartum, according to research from 2013.

When Do Night Sweats Start During Pregnancy?

Every pregnant person is different, so some may experience night sweats in early pregnancy, while others don’t. Oftentimes, pregnancy night sweats start during the first trimester and intensify in the third trimester thanks to more extensive hormonal changes, says Alan Lindemann, MD, an ob-gyn in Harvey, North Dakota. “There’s often a little hiatus in the second trimester,” he adds. Cleveland Clinic notes that they may continue for a few weeks after baby is born as your hormones adjust to pre-pregnancy levels.

What Causes Night Sweats in Pregnancy?

So, why are you suddenly waking up soaked in sweat? Several key changes occur in your body during pregnancy that can lead to excessive nighttime sweating, says Kelly O. Elmore, MD, an ob-gyn with Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, California:

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  • Hormonal surges. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone are on the rise in early pregnancy, which can lead to excessive sweating, including at night.
  • Higher metabolism. Your body has to work harder during pregnancy, which can cause you to generate more heat.
  • Increased blood circulation. Research suggests that a person’s blood volume increases by about 45 percent during the course of pregnancy. As blood vessels close to the skin’s surface dilate, this can have a heating effect.

How to Relieve Sweating and Night Sweats During Pregnancy

There isn’t much you can do to completely prevent night sweating during pregnancy, or to make it go away. But there are some steps you can take to feel more comfortable, says Elmore:

  • Comfy clothing. Elmore recommends sleeping in cool, comfortable and loose-fitting clothes. Bonus if they’re moisture-wicking.
  • A cool environment. Use light blankets, Elmore suggests. “Keep a glass of cool water at your bedside, and use a fan to help circulate stagnant air,” she adds.
  • Don’t sweat before bed. Try to avoid pre-bedtime activities that can induce sweating, like eating spicy foods or exercising, advises Elmore.

When Will Pregnancy Night Sweats Subside?

If your pregnancy night sweats don’t go away after delivery, you might be dealing with postpartum night sweats—but they typically go away after a few weeks. You may also be more likely to experience sweating at any time of day postpartum if you’re breastfeeding, as the hormone prolactin keeps estrogen levels low, causing you to sweat more, according to Cleveland Clinic. This typically only lasts a few weeks until your body adjusts to the new hormonal balance.

When to Talk to Your Doctor About Night Sweats in Pregnancy

In the vast majority of cases, night sweats during pregnancy are a normal result of fluctuating hormones. But night sweats can also be associated with other conditions, including viral or bacterial infections, thyroid issues or even certain types of cancer, says Elmore. She adds that if you’re dealing with any of these issues, you’ll likely experience other symptoms as well.

Lindemann says that if you feel a cold—rather than hot—sweat, it’s important to check in with your doctor as it could be a sign of infection or another issue. Also call your doctor if you’re experiencing night sweats with weight loss, fever or pain in your pelvis or abdomen.

FAQ About Sweating During Pregnancy

Is sweating a sign of pregnancy?

While it’s common to experience night sweats during pregnancy, the symptom alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant. “Although night sweats can be a sign of early pregnancy, they can also be caused by other factors including infection or thyroid disorders,” says Lindemann. If you’re experiencing regular night sweats without a positive pregnancy test, it’s best to consult with your provider.

Are night sweats a sign of labor in the third trimester?

During the third trimester, it’s normal to analyze every potential sign of labor, wondering whether it means it’s “go” time. But night sweats are a pretty unreliable labor symptom. “If your night sweats are combined with diarrhea, the pair can be a sign of early labor brought on by the same hormones,” Lindemann explains. In short, like with any late-pregnancy symptom—outside of regular, painful contractions—it’s a toss-up whether or not labor is imminent.

What causes cold sweats in pregnancy?

Night sweats feel more like hot flashes. But cold sweats—which is when you’re sweating but you actually feel chilly—aren’t normal during or after pregnancy, says Lindemann. “They may indicate stress, low blood sugar or infection. All of these are reasons to seek the advice of your doctor if you experience cold sweats in pregnancy,” he says.

While it can be annoying to wake up sweating during pregnancy—on top of all the other symptoms you’re already experiencing—night sweats are a natural result of your body’s changing hormone levels. Wearing loose clothing and keeping your bedroom cool will go a long way toward keeping you comfortable. And rest assured, your nighttime hot flashes will likely go away a few weeks after baby comes, at the latest. Now that’s something to look forward to!

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Sources

Kelly O. Elmore, MD, MBA, is an ob-gyn with Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, California. She earned her medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

Alan Lindemann, MD, is an ob-gyn in Harvey, North Dakota. He earned his medical degree from the University of North Dakota.

Cleveland Clinic, Night Sweats, September 2022

Fertility and Sterility, Prospective Evaluation of Nighttime Hot Flashes During Pregnancy and Postpartum, September 2013

Cardiovascular Journal of Africa, Physiological Changes in Pregnancy, March-April 2016

Cleveland Clinic, Postpartum Night Sweats, January 2023

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