Shaking During Labour And Birth – What You Need To Know

Shaking During Labour And Birth – What You Need To Know

You are ready.

You have read the books and ticked off the birth education classes.

You’ve heard plenty of birth stories – some good, some not so positive.

You think you are finally prepared for the birth of your baby.

You already know to expect some pain, and a flood of emotions – not to mention the sensation of needing to poop.

But there might still be some surprises in store for you.

One of the things most likely to happen during labour is something you probably haven’t been warned about.

Shaking During Labour And Birth – What You Need To Know

Most women experience some shaking or shivering during labour, but they are rarely prepared for the intensity of this physical reaction.

Whether you have a vaginal birth, an epidural or a c-section, chances are you will experience this little known phenomenon.

Here are 6 reasons why you might experience shaking during labour and birth:

#1: Hormones

Like pretty much everything else in pregnancy, we can point the finger at hormones for bringing uncontrollable shaking into the labour experience.

Hormones are pretty amazing. They do plenty of work behind the scenes – and most of the time we don’t really notice what’s going on. Sometimes, though, one or more hormones are out of kilter, or there’s too much of one particular hormone. That’s when we’re likely to take notice, because of the physical effects.

When shaking sets in during labour, this could be the reason. Hormone shifts and temperature changes can set off an adrenaline response. Although birth can be the most positive and uplifting experience of your life, the huge shift in oxytocin and stress hormones can bring on what basically looks like a shock reaction.

#2: Hard Work

It’s not called labour for nothing. Pushing a baby out is hard work. Your entire body works very hard to move your baby down and out, which in turn increases your body temperature.

When your baby is born, your body tries to regulate your increased temperature, restoring it to normal. As a result, you might feel shivery and quite shaky.

#3: Blood Incompatibility

A recent theory for shaking points to blood incompatibility between a mother and her baby. It’s been suggested a small amount of fetal blood might come into contact with the mother’s blood during labour. An incompatibility between the blood types might set off shivering and cold sensations.

#4: Amniotic Fluid Embolism

This is a rare but serious situation, which happens as a result of amniotic fluid coming into contact with the mother’s bloodstream. Amniotic fluid embolism is most likely to occur during birth or immediately after. The effects of amniotic fluid embolism happen quite suddenly, and include low blood pressure, chills and shakes.

#5: IV Fluids

In certain situations you might have an intravenous catheter placed in your vein, to drip in fluids or medications. As a result you might experience the sensation of feeling cold and having chills or shakes.

This happens because the IV fluids are colder than your normal body temperature and when they enter your body, they affect your internal temperature regulation.

#6: Infections

Sometimes women experience a fever during labour and when they are giving birth. This might be because there is an infection and the body is most likely trying to cool itself down.

If you’ve ever had a flu or virus which causes your temperature to rise, you might have experienced chills, sweats and the shakes. The same thing can happen during labour. Your care provider will monitor you carefully, and treat any sign of infection if it looks serious.

Interestingly, women who have epidurals are more likely to be at risk of developing a fever than those who don’t have them.

How Severe Is Shaking During Labour?

Whether or not you experience any shaking, and how severe it is, depends on many things. Some women shake uncontrollably. Others might only have the shakes in a certain area of the body, such as the legs or arms.

The most common time for women to get the shakes is around transition, when the cervix is fully dilated before pushing begins, or immediately after birth.

Having an epidural or a c-section doesn’t mean you will skip having the shakes. Due to any of the above reasons you might have mild or severe shaking.

What Can I Do If I Get The Shakes During Labour?

Depending on when and why you have the shakes you might be able lessen their intensity and duration if you:

  • Stay warm: have a dry, warm towel or blanket handy. Tell staff if you feel shaky during an epidural or c-section so they can make sure you are warm enough.
  • Have skin to skin contact: this isn’t just good for baby, but it also helps mothers to reduce stress hormones and boost the love hormone, oxytocin, which can help reduce body temperature.
  • Have a warm bath or shower: warm water feels great and can help reduce the stress hormones that contribute to shaking.
  • Get some privacy, rest and support: these are all factors that play an important part in helping the release of oxytocin rather than adrenaline.
  • Take medication: if shaking is due to fever, it might be necessary to have antibiotics and fever reducing medication.

It’s important to remember, in most cases, shaking in labour is a normal physical response. It’s part of your body’s way of coping with the intensity of labour and the recovery process after birth.

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Sam McCulloch Dip CBEd CONTRIBUTOR

Sam McCulloch enjoyed talking so much about birth she decided to become a birth educator and doula, supporting parents in making informed choices about their birth experience. In her spare time she writes novels. She is mother to three beautiful little humans.


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