Is It Normal to Have Hot Flashes After Going Through Menopause?

Here’s why you’re still burning up.

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After several decades of monthly periods and menstrual cramps, you may have welcomed menopause with open arms. What you may not appreciate as much is the new problem of hot flashes.

While these are unpleasant, they’re totally normal. The vast majority of women experience them during perimenopause and menopause. The light at the end of the tunnel is that they’ll end when menopause does — right?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Hot flashes may continue for several years after your periods have stopped.

What causes hot flashes?

During perimenopause (the natural transition into menopause) and menopause, a woman’s estrogen levels begin to decrease. This affects the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. As a result, you may feel a sudden rise in temperature for about 10 to 12 seconds.

To determine how long certain women experience hot flashes after menopause, the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) followed 3,167 women of different races and ethnicities who were in transition to menopause.

The researchers found that women who had their first hot flash before their menstrual periods ended, had hot flashes for an average of nine to 10 years. When the first hot flash didn’t start until after their last menstrual period, the average duration was only about three and a half years.

Ethnicity played a role, too: Black women tended to have the longest stretch of hot flashes (more than 11 years). On the other hand, Japanese and Chinese women experienced them for about half that time.

Other factors that may affect how long you experience these temperature changes include:

  • Previous or current smoking
  • Weight
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

What can I do to be more comfortable during a hot flash?

You don’t just have to suffer through them. There are several treatment options that can help you manage your fluctuating body temperature.

Certain lifestyle tweaks can help you manage your day-to-day symptoms too, such as:

  • Dress in layers: This way you can quickly remove a cardigan or jacket when a hot flash starts.
  • Carry a cool drink: Drinking cool water during a hot flash may help cool you down from the inside out.
  • Sleep in skimpier PJs: Heavy pajamas may cause you to wake up often. Dress in lighter pajamas, and instead use extra blankets. That way, you can easily remove a blanket during a hot flash, and pull it back on once you feel cooler.

Some people may also benefit from medications to manage hot flashes. These include both hormonal (with estrogen) and non-hormonal options.

The good news is that hot flashes are a temporary problem, and you'll stop having them eventually. Still, if they are are affecting your quality of life, talk to your doctor.