Feeling Hot or Cold During Pregnancy? Here's Why
Most women will have temporary bouts of feeling abnormally hot or cold during their pregnancy. Flushing skin, sweating, shivering, and cold chills are all a common part of the experience.
It might even seem like no matter what you do, you're either too hot or too cold, and can never achieve a comfortable temperature for more than a few minutes!
Important note: If you have sweats or cold chills, always take your temperature to ensure you don't have a fever. This article is referring to transient feelings of cold and warmth, in the absence of a fever.
Thermoregulation During Pregnancy
Those pesky hormones are at it again, making you feel like you can't maintain a consistent or comfortable temperature during pregnancy!
Difficulty comfortably regulating your body temperature might sound familiar: it's also a very common symptom during perimenopause.
In both cases, the root causes of dramatic temperature fluctuations are the same: hormones, hormones, and hormones!
Hormones can directly impact your perceived body temperature, and also have other downstream effects that can result in wild temperature swings during pregnancy.
Feeling Hot During Pregnancy
Feeling excessively hot during pregnancy can come in the form of hot flashes, or temporary moments when your body may flush, sweat, and feel uncomfortably hot.
At other times, feeling hot during pregnancy may be more consistent and prolonged, lasting for days or weeks.
Either way, these feelings are very common during pregnancy, affecting about 55% of all pregnant women (Ref 1).
Research demonstrates that the consistent increases in estrogen levels during pregnancy cause your heart to work harder and increase the total blood volume in your body (Ref 2).
The increased blood volume can cause you to feel hot, sweaty, momentary hot flashes, and generally uncomfortable during pregnancy.
How to Cool Down During Pregnancy
As I'm sure you know, it's important to stay well-hydrated during pregnancy, and drinking fluids can help you cool your body down.
Drink cold beverages, wear fewer, thinner, looser, and more breathable clothing layers (like cotton, linen, or silk). Make yourself popsicles from fresh juice, which can also help with morning sickness and nausea!
Try to avoid strenuous activity that will induce a body temperature rise, and if all else fails invest in one of those portable fans attached to a spray bottle to leverage some evaporative cooling (those actually work!).
If you have a pool, ocean, or other body of water nearby, go for a swim or at least dip your feet and legs in! If not, make yourself a cool bath.
Another idea is to take a little nap. Your body temperature lowers during naps, so this can help you not only cool down but also feel refreshed during more stressful days.
Even if you can't cool down to a comfortable level, it's important to realize that your baby isn't feeling the effects of your apparent thermoregulatory issues! Your body does a fantastic job keeping your baby protected in many ways, including maintaining a steady fetal temperature.
Outside of extremes such as hypothermia and heat stress, normal body temperature variation is not going to affect your growing baby.
Feeling Cold During Pregnancy
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some women experience feeling cold during pregnancy. This can feel like temporarily feeling cold at an unexpected time (like during a warm day), and also involve chills or cold sweats.
Interestingly, the same reasons many women feel hot during pregnancy can also cause some women to feel cold: those pesky hormones are at it again!
Sometimes the very same increase in estrogen and blood volume that causes your body temperature to rise, can also cause you to feel cold, especially early in pregnancy (during the first trimester).
It's a little unintuitive, but basically your body may overcompensate for that rising body temperature and end up making you feel cold. This might be because your body initiated a very effective sweating and vasodilation response, ultimately cooling you down a bit too much.
Feeling colder than everyone else around you? Want to bundle up while on the beach, while your partner basks in the sunshine!?
You're not alone! Many women report feeling cold, having chills, and even shivering while pregnant - even when others around them are commenting about how warm it is!
Feeling cold can also happen if you've reduced your calorie intake due to morning sickness, which can cause dehydration and insufficient food intake.
In general, if you're eating and drinking normal, having a case of the chills is not cause for concern unless you have an underlying health condition. These might include low blood pressure, anemia, anxiety, lack of sleep, hypothyroidism, or even an infection.
If you are repeatedly feeling cold during pregnancy, bring this up with your doctor and see what they suggest, especially if you have any history of these medical issues. Your doctor might want to run some tests to rule out more serious potential causes of feeling cold while pregnant.
How to Warm Up During Pregnancy
It probably won't surprise you to learn that these recommendations are basically the opposite of the ones we provided for how to cool down during pregnancy.
These include drinking warm fluids like tea and chai, and wearing more layers that are easily removable for when you eventually end up hot again!
Try to squeeze in some light activity, like going for a walk or light run, to get the blood flowing to your extremities. Try to lower your anxiety, if possible, through some meditation, relaxation, or light yoga.
A warm bath can help you warm up, calm down, and reset.