It might be a surprise to know your body may go into uncontrollable postpartum shivering, or 'chills' after giving birth. You might worry that something is not right, but, it's completely normal. Postpartum shaking is more common than is often talked about, but it's important you know about it so you what you are experiencing after baby is born. Here's what you need to know about postpartum shaking.
Postpartum shivering phenomenon is a normal side effect of birth


When I had my sons, after delivery from both, I could not stop shaking. I wasn't necessarily cold; I just could not stop shaking. It scared me, and though my doctors told me it was 'normal,' I didn't really understand how it could be, or why. I'd not read anything about postpartum shaking in my many, many readings about what to expect, and it threw me.

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With my second son, my shivering was so uncontrollable it was unpleasant and I even went in and out of consciousness with low blood pressure, though not for long. I was wrapped in what I found to be the equivalent of big bubble wrap and finally calmed down about an hour or so later. It was difficult; I was not sure why I couldn't warm up and stop shaking, and I didn't get to hold my son until almost an hour after he'd been born. That precious time taken feels more like it was stolen, but I think because I didn't know that postpartum shivering was even a thing, much less something that I'd be experiencing.

Postpartum shivering phenomenon, or postpartum chills, is actually more common than I ever thought it was. It's most often over rather quickly and in the excitement of giving birth and bonding with a new baby, often forgotten as part of labor. Many doctors consider it so 'normal' a part of the process, they don't often share that it could happen, particularly because it often stops rather quickly after the baby is delivered. And that's understandable; sometimes 'too much' information isn't necessarily a great thing, and can leave you with self-fulfilling thoughts that may end up being an issue.

But, a study that looked at women after they delivered found that 44% of the women experienced shivering either during or right after labor. The study did find that the temperatures in the rooms of women who experienced postpartum shivering were slightly lower on average, but experts suggest that it is an entirely normal phenomenon after labor regardless of room temperature. So, why don't more doctors share about it? Why don't more women share it happened to them so the rest of us won't freak out wondering what the heck is going on and worrying that there is something 'wrong'?

It is believed that the shaking is a result of the vast and quick hormonal changes a woman's body goes through in the labor process, particularly when it comes to fluids shifting and endorphins being released regularly. Some suggest that the use of IV fluids may be a factor in the chills happening, while other research suggests that feto-maternal transfusion (the transfer of fetal blood cells into the mother's during the labor process) may come into play.

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Regardless of the cause, it's a common event. Common as it may be, though, it can also be aggravating as you might want to take precautions for your baby's safety if your shaking gets to be too much. Like I did, some find the teeth chattering awkward as well, but that's where having midwives and doulas supporting both you and baby postpartum can make a big difference. Some even believe that skin-to-skin with your little one, while you're shivering, can actually be soothing to your baby. The problem in many situations is that you may not be able to have your baby that close if your shivering is so severe, as was in my case. Still, knowing that it was a possibility would have prepared me to know what may have been coming. And, not everyone has the shivering as much (or as long) as I did.

In fact, for many, it really is a brief time period that the shivering occurs, and many new moms find that while waiting for the shivering to stop, spending some time resting with your baby skin-to-skin on your chest is a perfect distraction for an aggravating but normal body response to childbirth. Clinicians believe that the chills typically are over within an hour, but do advise that if it does continue even after you've been home with the baby to consult them as chills can also be indicators of infection or illnesses.

And that's something new mamas need to know as well. All too often, body processes like postpartum shivering occur as part of the labor and delivery process, and doctors dismiss the issues as 'normal.' This happened to me with the birth of my first son when I ended up with pre-eclampsia postpartum because my 'symptoms' before birth were considered 'normal,' (pregnancy-induced hypertension) when in fact, they were not normal for me at all.

So the thing to know about postpartum shivering is that while it can be and most often is completely normal and not much more than some inconvenience for a bit after birth, it can also be something more and you should feel empowered to let your provider know so she can be sure there's nothing more going on.

Knowing about postpartum shivering is the first step to feeling ready for it should it happen, though, so now you know.

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