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Is it normal to have hot flashes during pregnancy?

Absolutely. When you take your seat on the pregnancy hormone roller-coaster, hot flashes — like mood swings — may come along for the ride.

Regular fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly drops in estrogen, are to blame for surges of heat that can drive us to kick the blankets off at night or fan ourselves wildly in the checkout line.

These flashes usually affect the head, neck, and chest, and can last "from seconds to minutes," says Laurie Gregg, an ob-gyn based in Sacramento, California. About 10 percent of her patients complain of hot flashes during pregnancy, Gregg says.

Generally, hot flashes are more common in the second and third trimesters and may be even more frequent after your baby arrives. In fact, Gregg says about 90 percent of her patients complain of hot flashes postpartum.

"That's because your hormones lower after pregnancy and will stay low if you're breastfeeding," says Gregg.

Hot flashes that come and go are perfectly normal, says Gregg, but it's important to know the difference between a hot flash and a fever. Fevers elevate your body temperature, whereas hot flashes don't. Fevers can signal an infection, and high fevers can be dangerous during pregnancy.

"If your temperature is over 100 F, call your healthcare provider," says Gregg.

Strategies for coping with hot flashes are pretty low-tech. Try wearing layered clothes — that way when a "power surge" strikes you can shed your long-sleeved shirt and cool off in your tank. And know that hot flashes, too, shall pass — though they'll probably be back when you hit menopause!

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