During those first few months of pregnancy, your body is undergoing a massive shift in hormone production, stretching ligaments, increasing blood supply, growing a placenta and above all, sustaining a new life. In other words, pregnancy is like no other time in your life.
Some of the sensations that result from these changes can seem unusual and be challenging to deal with. While many pregnant women report feeling hot all the time, other women experience a persistent chilly feeling.
Why does this happen and what can you do about it? Here are some reasons that pregnancy might be leaving you feeling cold and some steps you may want to take to warm up.
Reasons for Feeling Cold
While it’s true that more women report feeling too hot rather than too cold during pregnancy, chills are definitely not unusual.
Body changes directly related to pregnancy itself are the most common reasons to feel cold. Increasing hormone levels, morning sickness and impaired blood flow are frequent offenders.
Additionally, not getting the amount or right type of calories that both you and your baby need can leave you feeling chilly.
Other causes of a persistent cold feeling can signal an underlying problem and be more serious. Significant weight loss from nausea and vomiting, anemia, an infection, illness or hypothyroidism all require a doctor’s care and appropriate treatment.
What Might be Causing Them
Hormones. Ah, hormones. While they can certainly make you feel uncomfortable at times, they are necessary. These substances are responsible for regulating and maintaining basically every aspect of your pregnancy. In the early weeks of pregnancy, the hormones estrogen and progesterone cause your body’s core temperature to rise. It seems a little backward, but a rise in your body’s temperature could actually cause you to feel colder: As your core temperature rises, your skin could be much more sensitive to the cooler room air.
Nausea. A feeling of uncomfortable warmth often accompanies nausea, but some mothers may experience just the opposite. Vomiting doesn’t always accompany nausea, but you could feel especially cold if it does.
Poor Circulation. During pregnancy, your body’s blood volume increases by about 50% to bring plenty of nourishment to your growing baby. Particularly in outlying areas like the hands and feet, you could experience some extra chilliness as your body adjusts to these blood supply changes.
Inadequate Nutrition. Filling up on foods that are packed with sugar, unhealthy fats and starches could be to blame for persistent chills. Your body needs protein, vitamins, good carbohydrates and minerals to produce energy and adequate body heat. If your diet lacks these nutrients, feeling cold and low on energy could be the result.
Weight Loss From Food aversions and Vomiting. For many women, the first trimester includes at least a few bouts of nausea and vomiting. For some mothers, though, it can be a serious problem to the point where they can’t tolerate the thought of most foods or are unable to keep them down.
When nausea or vomiting is bad enough to significantly reduce your daily calories, your body starts to tap into fat stores to nourish the baby. This loss of body fat can leave you feeling colder than normal.
Anemia. If your healthcare provider diagnoses you with anemia, it means you have low blood levels of a certain type of iron that is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout your body.
Anemia can leave you feeling cold since the body’s metabolism tends to slow down when it doesn’t have adequate oxygen.
If it is severe, anemia can be a serious condition that requires treatment to prevent you or your baby from suffering the effects of low blood oxygen levels. Most providers order a routine test for anemia during pregnancy, but don’t wait for the scheduled test if you think you may have symptoms now. Your provider can test your blood iron levels at any time and get you started on supplemental iron if needed.
An infection or illness. Since your baby has a separate DNA sequence than yours, your immune system is suppressed during pregnancy to prevent your body from raising an immune response to your baby. This can leave you a little more susceptible to certain infections and illnesses while you are pregnant, and chills often accompany these conditions.
However, while chills are common with illness, they will probably not be the only symptom you notice. Be alert for a consistent fever, lethargy, pain or discomfort. Some or all of these are almost always present and are typically more specific to an actual problem.
Infections or illness could be serious during pregnancy, so be sure to contact your provider’s office right away if you think you may have one.
Hypothyroidism. Your thyroid is a small gland located at the front of your neck, and the hormones it releases affect various body functions. In particular, your thyroid has a significant effect on your metabolism, or the way your body processes energy.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones. This can lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating, constipation and increased sensitivity to cold. If severe hypothyroidism goes untreated during pregnancy, you and your baby are at an increased risk for several serious health or developmental problems.
If your provider suspects your chilliness could be due to hypothyroidism, they can test your thyroid function and prescribe a hormone replacement if you need it.
Dealing With Chills
Always try the simplest solutions first. Consult your healthcare provider if you are still feeling cold after taking some steps to warm up at home.
Take a shower or bath. While your goal is to feel a little warmer, it can be dangerous to your baby to raise your body temperature too high. Especially when you are soaking in the tub, make sure your water is comfortably warm, not hot.
Put on extra layers of clothes. Adding a sweater or sweatshirt could help you feel cozier, and don’t forget to use the hood if it’s available. A warm pair of slippers or thick socks can help prevent heat loss from your feet.
Drink a warm beverage. Sometimes just holding a warm mug can help you feel a little warmer yourself. Due to the potential for adverse effects on your baby, caffeinated beverages like coffee and some teas are usually discouraged during the first trimester. Try hot water with lemon, warm milk or a cup of broth. Warm apple cider or hot chocolate can be soothing and delicious, but they are also very high in sugar and should be reserved for a special treat.
You may want to try certain herbal teas, but make sure you use caution when choosing one. Some herbs are safe for expecting mothers and could even help with pregnancy discomforts like nausea, but others can be dangerous to take during pregnancy. Check with your doctor to find out which ones are appropriate.
Cover up with a blanket. You may feel especially cold when you’re are sitting down to read, use the Internet or watch TV. Try having a few extra blankets handy in the locations where you normally sit down.
If you find yourself getting extra cold at night, add another blanket to your normal bedding. Even though it may feel much warmer, avoid sleeping with your head under the blanket. Both you are your baby need oxygen to thrive, and sleeping with your head covered could prevent you from getting enough fresh air.
Try ginger. Known as a warming spice in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, ginger can help promote healthy blood circulation. As an added benefit, studies have shown that ginger can be helpful in reducing pregnancy nausea. You can easily brew a cup of fresh ginger tea by steeping a gram of ginger root in four cups of hot water for about three to five minutes. Strain the tea into a mug and take frequent sips throughout the day.
Since ginger is an herb that can have some medicinal effects on your body, always consult your healthcare provider before taking it. Additionally, limit your ginger consumption to one gram per day.
Do something active. If you feel physically up to it, some light activity may get your blood flowing and help you feel a little warmer. As long as the weather cooperates, go for a walk outside. Try doing some light housework like dusting or organizing small items. However, pay attention to your body and be careful not to overtire yourself. Additionally, don’t lift any items that are heavier than your doctor advises.
Eat foods high in protein and healthy fats. If your chills are due to weight loss from nausea and vomiting, try to eat as many calorie-dense foods as possible. Here are a few you may want to try:
- Lean red meat
- Nuts and nut butter
- Coconut or olive oil
Persistent nausea and strong food aversions may make it difficult or impossible for you to eat these or almost any kind of food. Just do your best to eat whatever you can, and fill up on any foods that you can tolerate. Severe nausea often subsides after the first trimester, so you can always try to increase your calories then.
Try strategies that could help combat morning sickness. If your nausea and vomiting are preventing you from eating enough or the right types of foods, these ideas might help you get some relief from your morning sickness symptoms.
- Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. This is important for any pregnant mother, but staying adequately hydrated can have the additional benefit of reducing nausea for those suffering from morning sickness.
- Vitamin B6. A Vitamin B6 supplement has been helpful in combating nausea in some women. Ask your provider what brand and dose they recommend.
- Mint or lemon. Some women report that smelling or eating mint or lemon helps reduce their nausea. Try mint or lemon hard candies, sipping infused water or using scented body products.
- Have a snack at your bedside. Getting up into a sitting or upright position too quickly after lying flat for an extended time can bring on the feeling of nausea. Some women report that having a small snack before they even get out of bed in the morning can be helpful. Try keeping a few crackers and some water within reach and slowly prop yourself up to eat.
- Ask your doctor if medication might help. Anti-nausea medication can be highly effective and may be necessary for some mothers. Although you should make changes to your diet and daily habits first, medication may be the best option if your morning sickness is severe and causes you to lose weight.
There are several factors that could be behind your persistent chilliness. Some are annoying but harmless, and they should disappear as your pregnancy progresses. Others could be an early warning sign of something more serious.
Always let your healthcare provider know when you just can’t seem to get warm. They will either be able to reassure you that there is nothing to be concerned about or make sure you get any necessary treatment.
Did you get the chills while you were pregnant? What were some things that you found helpful? Let us know in the comments!