Postpartum Night Sweats: What To Do
For new moms, the postpartum period can be a bit of a whirlwind! As you begin to adjust to life with your new baby, you may also experience some unexpected postpartum symptoms, such as postpartum night sweats.
It’s common for many new moms to experience night sweats and hot flashes during the postpartum period. What causes postpartum sweating in the middle of the night, and what can you do about it? We’ve compiled some helpful information below, including when to talk to a healthcare provider.
What are Postpartum Night Sweats
When you were pregnant, your body went through many different incredible changes. After giving birth to your new baby, it will take some time for your body to adjust to this huge change.
One common postpartum symptom is postpartum sweating, particularly at night. If you’ve woken up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, you might be experiencing postpartum night sweats.
Postpartum night sweats are fairly common. Many women experience hot flashes during pregnancy, about 30%, and the majority of those will go on to experience night sweats postpartum. In conjunction with sweating at night, you might also find that you experience excessive sweating and urination during the daytime hours.
Although postpartum night sweats are uncomfortable, thankfully they usually resolve themselves fairly quickly. Research finds that most new moms who experience night sweats find that they go away on their own after a few weeks.
What Causes Postpartum Night Sweats
Excessive sweating is a common postpartum symptom for many women, but what causes postpartum night sweats?
After pregnancy, your body is working hard to adjust to fluctuating hormonal changes. Your body’s hormone levels - particularly progesterone and estrogen - decrease in the weeks after giving birth. These decreases in your body’s levels of estrogen and progesterone are similar to what women experience when they go through menopause, which is why some new moms experience night sweats and hot flashes postpartum.
Your body is incredible at making sure it has everything your little one needs to grow and thrive, and during pregnancy, that requires hanging onto extra fluid to support your pregnancy. Now postpartum, your body is working hard to get rid of those excess fluids.
Postpartum night sweats can also be caused by hyperthyroidism or other thyroid issues. If you have concerns that your sweating may be caused by a thyroid issue, talk to your doctor.
How to Deal with Postpartum Night Sweats
- Stay hydrated - It might seem counterintuitive since your body has a lot of excess fluid right now, but staying hydrated is important during this period, especially if you are breastfeeding. Try to drink plenty of water - especially cold water - to help yourself stay hydrated and cool.
- Turn on the air conditioning - Particularly during these warm summer months, air conditioning can be a huge relief! If you’re able to, crank down the air conditioning at night to keep your bedroom cool. You can also turn on a fan or open a window to help cool things down.
- Avoid trigger foods - Consuming things like alcohol, hot liquids, caffeine, and spicy foods can all raise your body temperature and contribute to night sweats. Avoid consuming these foods to help you stay cool.
- Choose your pajamas wisely - Avoid heavy or thick pajamas and instead opt for loose-fitting light layers. You should also consider wearing natural fabrics, like cotton and linen, rather than synthetic fabrics since natural fabrics are better at letting your skin breathe and keeping your body cool.
- Change your sheets - Your sheets can help keep you keep cool or make you feel hotter! Use lightweight or moisture-wicking sheets to help yourself stay cool. If you wake up in a pool of sweat, opt for sleeping on a towel that you can quickly change in the night.
- Take naps during the day - You might find that your postpartum night sweats are keeping you up at night and preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. If that’s the case, allow yourself to take naps during the day if you need to. Just make sure to stay away from caffeine, since it can raise your body temperature and make your hot flashes and night sweats worse.
When to Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
Usually, night sweats will go away on their own, but when should you talk to your ob-gyn?
If your postpartum night sweats continue for longer than a few weeks after giving birth, it can be helpful to contact your doctor. Continued excessive sweating and hot flashes might be a sign of conditions like hyperthyroidism, diabetes, hypoglycemia, postpartum thyroiditis, or postpartum depression.
If your hot flashes and night sweats last longer than a few weeks after delivery, or if you also have a fever, this could be a sign of an infection or postpartum complication and should be addressed by a healthcare provider right away.
Other signs of postpartum complications that require immediate medical attention include:
- Large blood clots or significant bleeding 3+ days after delivery
- Pain or burning during urination
- Persistent fever
- Severe cramping
- Trouble breathing
- Mental health issues, like feeling depressed or anxious
Whilst postpartum night sweats can be distressing and exhausting, they usually don’t have a serious underlying cause and you should recover in a few weeks. However, if they persist, your doctor will be able to ascertain any underlying causes and provide treatment.
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Dr. Chelsea Hetherington (she/her) is a developmental psychologist, writer, coach, and consultant.