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Women's health

Postpartum Night Sweats–What They Are and How to Manage

Experts explain triggers to treatments and everything else in between.

By Courtney Leiva

Postpartum Night Sweats–What They Are and How to Manage

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Postpartum night sweats can be intense – it's like trying to sleep in a sauna without actually being in one. But you're not alone in this steamy situation. A 2013 study published in Fertility and Sterility found that around 29% of women experience this postpartum symptom after giving birth. To better understand postpartum night sweats and learn how to manage it, we consulted with four experts on this topic. They discuss everything from triggers to treatments and everything else in between.

What are postpartum night sweats?

Night sweats after giving birth are quite common during the postpartum period, yet they are not discussed as widely as postpartum depression symptoms. According to Katie McCann, a certified breastfeeding counselor, night sweats happen because of the hormonal changes that come with having a baby and can affect a lot of new moms. "When you're pregnant, your body goes through a surge in hormones like estrogen and progesterone," she tells Today's Parent. "After giving birth, these levels drop suddenly, messing with your body's temperature regulation and often causing a lot of sweating, especially at night."

According to Julia Dickinson, registered nurse, certified nurse midwife, and director of midwifery at Mount Auburn Hospital, and Dr. Brett Young, MD, interim chair of OB-GYN and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, postpartum night sweats are usually not a cause of concern. They explain that experiencing postpartum night sweats is normal and may involve feeling hot, flushed, and sweaty, typically lasting for about three to five minutes and might be followed by brief chills.

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How long do postpartum night sweats last?

Dickinson and Young emphasize that postpartum night sweats, although temporary, generally commence within the first few weeks after delivery and tend to subside by the two or three-month point.

However, if you’re breastfeeding, you expect those night sweats to hang around a bit longer. According to the Cleveland Clinic, breastfeeding can stretch out the duration of night sweats because it keeps estrogen levels low in your body.

How can I stop postpartum night sweats?

Although there's no magic pill to stop night sweats, Dr. Amy Kane, MD, medical director and OB-GYN from Millie Clinic, suggests there are ways to make them more manageable. The best place to start? Creating a cool and comfortable sleeping environment in your bedroom. "Try sleeping in layers, wearing loose, comfy clothes, and keeping a fan on (or open a window) while you sleep," she explains. One of the best mattresses for hot sleepers is also worth a try.

It is also crucial to know what triggers night sweats and to avoid things that can exacerbate them, according to Dickinson and Young. They suggest avoiding caffeine and smoking and keeping stress in check. "Taking a few deep breaths can help lower your body temperature and reduce anxiety," they advise.

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Drinking cold water can also help manage night sweats. McCann says it can lower your body temperature and keep you hydrated from excess fluids you lose when sweating.

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Do postpartum night sweats burn calories?

Sweat during exercise doesn't directly translate to weight loss, and the same goes for postpartum sweating, according to Dr. Kane. She does point out, however, that night sweats can lead to water loss, so it's important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if you're breastfeeding.

FAQs

Are there any underlying hormonal changes that contribute to postpartum night sweats?

Dr. Kane suggests that postpartum night sweats are primarily caused by hormonal changes, specifically a significant drop in estrogen and progesterone levels after giving birth. She explains, "Levels of estrogen and progesterone experience a significant drop from their elevated levels during pregnancy and eventually return to normal, pre-pregnancy levels after a few months."

Can postpartum night sweats be accompanied by other symptoms?

Postpartum night sweats can be accompanied by other symptoms, like waking up frequently and hot flashes. However, Dr. Kane emphasizes that irritability and fatigue are the most noticeable. "If night sweats are disrupting your sleep, especially when you're already frequently waking up to feed and care for your infant, you might find yourself extra tired," she tells Today's Parent. "This fatigue can affect your mood and contribute to irritability."

Can postpartum night sweats be a sign of a more serious medical issue?

Postpartum night sweats are generally harmless, but it's essential to watch out for signs of a more serious health issue. According to Dr. Kane, night sweats, combined with fever, loss of appetite, or feeling unwell, could be a sign of an infection.

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McCann also suggests that excessive sweating is worrying when accompanied by fever, extreme fatigue, or disruption of sleep or daily routine. "In these situations, it's best to seek advice from an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) to rule out hormonal imbalances or other health concerns," she says.

Do spicy foods trigger night sweats?

Spicy foods are known for their flavorful kick, but McCann says they can trigger night sweats. "Spicy foods stimulate the body's heat production, which can make you sweat more," she explains. "If you want to sleep well and avoid waking up in a sweat, just watch how much spicy food you eat."

Experts

  • Dr. Amy Kane, Medical Director & OB-GYN MD, from Millie Clinic
  • Katie McCann, a certified breastfeeding counselor
  • Julia Dickinson, registered nurse, certified nurse midwife, and director of midwifery at Mount Auburn Hospital
  • Dr. Brett Young, MD, interim chair of OB-GYN and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School

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