Most people have a slightly higher body temperature during pregnancy. However, some individuals feel cold when they are pregnant. Although this symptom is normal in many cases, it can sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition.
In this article, we discuss some causes of feeling cold during pregnancy. We also explain how a person can treat it and when they should speak to a doctor.
It is not typical to feel cold during pregnancy. Instead, most pregnant people feel warmer than usual.
Progesterone, a hormone that rises in pregnancy, can slightly raise body temperature.
As the pregnancy progresses, increased body weight, more blood flowing throughout the body, and the cardiovascular challenges of pregnancy usually cause a person to feel hot.
These factors do not make it impossible to feel cold during pregnancy, though.
Cold weather, too much air conditioning, and other factors can still make a person feel cold. Sometimes, the body’s attempts to cool itself make a person feel cold in very hot weather.
However, if a person feels chronically cold — even when it is warm, and they are appropriately dressed — this might signal an issue.
A pregnant person should bring up the issue with a doctor or midwife at their next appointment.
Several factors can cause a pregnant person to feel cold.
Sudden intense feelings of coldness may signal a fever, especially if a person has chills, body aches, or other symptoms of illness.
People with a fever may alternate between feeling hot and cold, or they may feel very cold even when wearing warm clothing and blankets.
A fever in pregnancy may increase the risk of certain adverse outcomes, including birth abnormalities in the ear, eye, face, neck, and genitals. It is, therefore, important to control the fever and treat its underlying cause.
Although it is safe to take acetaminophen or paracetamol during pregnancy to control a fever and protect the developing baby from dangerously high temperatures, this will not treat the underlying cause of the fever.
A person should see a doctor or midwife any time they have a body temperature above 37.5°C (99.5°F) during pregnancy.
Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It can cause a person to feel cold and tired.
Some other symptoms include constipation, muscle cramps, low energy, and trouble concentrating. For some people, feeling cold is the only symptom.
In some cases, pregnancy causes hypothyroidism. In others, the hypothyroidism existed before the pregnancy, and the pregnancy worsens it.
Some pregnant people experience night sweats.
As the body attempts to cool itself, a person may become cold, especially in an air conditioned room without blankets. Night sweats are not dangerous, but they can make sleeping more difficult.
Overactive cooling system
The body tries to regulate its own temperature by sweating, causing a person to breathe faster and motivating them to wear less clothing and seek cooler spaces.
Sometimes, these attempts make a person feel cold. For example, a person might feel very cold shortly after a hot shower or a walk in the heat.
If the cold feelings go away relatively quickly, there is no reason to be concerned. When they persist for a long time, it might be a sign that the body has trouble warming itself.
Sometimes, feeling cold during pregnancy is just a variation of normal, and a person does not need treatment. Where possible, using a space heater in the office, wearing a cozy hoodie, and heating the home more during the winter may help.
It is important to avoid very hot showers or saunas, as these are not safe during pregnancy.
The treatment for other issues will depend on the cause.
People with hypothyroidism usually need to take synthetic thyroid hormones every day. A doctor will also recommend regular testing of thyroid hormone levels during and after pregnancy.
If a person has a fever, a doctor will ask them about their symptoms and medical history to try to determine the cause. They may also carry out some diagnostic tests. If they suspect a bacterial infection, they may recommend antibiotics. Monitoring infections is important during pregnancy, as they can affect the baby’s development.
People may be able to reduce the risk of feeling uncomfortably cold during pregnancy by:
- staying away from sick people and washing the hands frequently to avoid getting an infection
- seeking prompt care for any signs of infection, including unexplained pain, a serious wound that is not healing, or a fever
- wearing seasonally appropriate clothing and layers to deal with sudden temperature changes
- sleeping in a cool room to try to prevent night sweats but having lots of blankets available to avoid chills
- getting a blood test to measure thyroid function early in pregnancy
One possible cause of fever is the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that flu vaccination is safe for pregnant people. Therefore, a pregnant person may wish to consider getting the flu shot at the start of the flu season to reduce their risk of infection.
Pregnant people should seek regular medical care and discuss all symptoms with a doctor or midwife.
A pregnant person should talk to their healthcare provider at their next appointment if they feel unusually cold or have other problems regulating their body temperature.
For example, they should make the healthcare provider aware if they alternate between feeling very hot and cold.
If a pregnant person develops a fever, it is important to call a healthcare provider immediately. If it is after hours, and there are other signs of an infection, such as pain or a potentially infected wound, the person needs to go to the emergency room.
Pregnancy can cause unpleasant temperature swings, especially as a person’s body grows, and their heart and lungs have to work harder as a result.
Most people notice increasing feelings of heat, but in some cases, pregnancy can cause chills or shifts between hot and cold temperatures.
These symptoms usually go away after a person gives birth, but it is important to talk to a healthcare provider about all pregnancy-related symptoms.
Early intervention to treat infections and thyroid issues can improve the health of both the pregnant person and the baby.