How to identify and cope with postpartum sweating

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
May 20, 2014
Chest sweating

What is postpartum sweating?

Postpartum sweating is the tendency to sweat like you have just done a vigorous workout. Commonly experienced by mothers in the weeks after childbirth, postpartum sweating generally comes on at night, just as you are trying to fall asleep.

The large amount of sweat can shock unsuspecting mothers. There is no need to panic as this process is perfectly natural. During pregnancy, women have a tendency to store excess fluid in their bodies. This extra fluid is used to nourish your baby when it is in the womb. Heavy sweating in the weeks after childbirth is your body's way of naturally getting rid of excess build-up.

While most of your excess water storage will be handled by your kidneys, The pores in your skin also work overtime to remove the extra water. Even once the excess water has left your body you may still sweat more than usual for the duration of the breastfeeding phase.

What causes it?

sweat black and white

Postpartum sweating has not been widely studied and its causes exact causes are still unknown. Many physicians believe that these night sweats are triggered by the sudden drop in estrogen levels after childbirth.

How long does postpartum sweating last?

Postpartum sweating can last several weeks after the birth of your child. Mothers who breastfeed have been found to sweat for a longer duration than those that don't. Most women report that their sweaty nights have ceased after two to four weeks. Some experience them much longer.

Not all mothers who undergo postpartum sweating will experience it in one block. Some mothers will experience it on and off.

What can I do about it?

While you can't stop postpartum sweating outright, there are a few steps you can take to make you more comfortable.

Don't cut back on your liquid intake

If I drink less I will sweat less, right? Wrong. Drinking water and other non-alcoholic fluids will help this sweaty phase pass quicker. Dieters will know that the more water that enters your body, the more water gets flushed out. This same principle works with your postpartum water retention.

Keep Cool

Cooling down your body will help keep you feel better when the sweating really kicks in. Below are some methods you can use to lower your body temperature.

  • Taking a cold shower before bed will get you comfortable enough to fall asleep.
  • ​Keep a cool glass of water beside your bed. Should you awake due to sweat drink the water to cool down your insides.
  • If you are experiencing hot weather you have the option of sleeping naked.

Wear appropriate clothing

sweat in stomach

Wearing loose lightweight clothing will help keep you cool. Although you will continue to sweat, it is less noticeable if your body is at a comfortable temperature. Choose cotton clothing which will help your skin to breath. Avoid synthetic clothing which does not breath and will leave you feeling like a sticky mess.

If you do wear clothing to bed be prepared to wash it daily. Your sweat will have a habit of soaking everything that comes into contact with your skin.

Buy a mattress protector

If you are experiencing sweats that soak through to the mattress it is definitely time to get a mattress protector. A mattress protector will prevent your sweat from coming into contact with your mattress. This is important as a sweaty mattress left unchecked can quickly start to smell. Once your night sweats have stopped you can simply throw it out. You have two options:

cotton: Similar to a thin quilt but goes underneath your fitted sheet. Provides an extra layer in an effort to prevent moisture from coming into contact with the mattress.

Plastic: Similar to the plastic sheets that are placed on children's bed so they don't wet the mattress at night. While cheaper than the cotton protectors, they are prone to making noise every time you shift position.

Have warm clothes ready

It doesn't seem fair but while you are experiencing these nightly sweats you will also be awoken by your baby crying for food. Keep a bathrobe or similar clothes by the bed for when you do have to get up. While you may feel hot when you first wake up but your body temperature will drop quickly when you get up due to being wet. You do not want to catch a chill while feeding your baby.

Prevent rashes

If sweating at night is causing you rashes, simply use a handy ingredient that you will more than likely have laying around the house. Baby powder. Simply apply it to problematic areas. Baby powder not only absorbs sweat but is fragranced to help you mask that sweaty odor.

Deal with your wet pillow

Are you being awoken by a sweat-soaked pillow? If this is the only way that your postpartum sweats are waking you up then the solution is simple. Place a bathroom towel between your head and your pillow before you go to sleep. Pillowcases are usually incredibly thin pieces of fabric. As a result, your sweat will accumulate very quickly. A bath towel is designed to absorb moisture, keeping your head feeling drier for longer.

Is there anything to watch out for?

You will need to be careful that you do not misdiagnose your condition as postpartum sweating. Sweating can also accompany more serious health issues.

If your sweating is accompanied by a fever, it is possible that an infection has occurred or you have come down with the flu. Increased sweating can also be a sign of an overactive thyroid gland. If in doubt or you believe your sweating is excessive or have a fever, check with your healthcare provider.

Just remember, postpartum sweating should be over within a few weeks. Stay positive.

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