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Is it normal to shiver after childbirth?

 In Ask an Expert, Midwifery, Pulse Blog

Q: Should women be worried if they get the chills after giving birth?

The first minutes after having a baby are priceless as a woman watches her baby unfold in her arms. Often mothers gently touch their precious newborn with their fingertips, hardly believing this little one is real, just inches away. When this lovely falling-in-love is interrupted by a woman’s body shaking, sometimes very intensely, she and her family can be very worried. Some women have even wondered if they are having a seizure.

It is actually very common and normal to shake like this after birth. When the body moves a mother’s blood to her core, her arms and legs get shaky to warm themselves. Even though this is a hormonal response to the birth, and the mother isn’t actually cold, a warm blanket can really calm the shaking. Having someone lay their forearm gently across a mom’s upper chest, kind of shoulder-to-shoulder, can also reduce the shakiness.

Some new mothers worry about being able to hold their baby while they are so shaky. Usually if their partner is beside them watching the baby as well, the baby is secure on the mother’s chest. The care provider and nurse will also be checking if the baby is okay.

Shaking after a baby is born may last just a few minutes to an hour or so. Once a warm blanket is placed on the new mother, and she is reassured that it is normal, her support people can help her relax back into the sweet minutes that are her baby’s first hour, lying skin-to-skin, warm and content.

—Patty Kartchner, CNM

Patricia Kartchner earned a master of science in nursing with a specialty in midwifery from Oregon Health & Science University. She enjoys being a trusted guide for women during pregnancy and childbirth.

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