Pregnancy and childbirth can be incredibly challenging experiences for women, both physically and emotionally. Among the various postpartum symptoms that can arise, feeling intensely cold and shivering right after giving birth is increasingly common among new mothers. “Patients describe the feeling as if they are stuck outside on a freezing winter day without a coat, causing their teeth to chatter and their body to shake. Shivering, most often, occurs one to two hours after the delivery of the baby, although it can also occur toward the end of labour,” Dr Chandrika Anand, Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Fortis Hospitals, Nagarbhavi said.
But, what are these chilly sensations and why do they occur? Called postpartum chills, these can range from mild to severe and almost half the women experience this, as per several studies. “It is a common experience for many women and is considered a normal physiological response to childbirth,” Dr Prasannalatha, Senior Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad said.
Here are some possible causes behind postpartum chills, as shared by Dr Anand.
*Hormonal changes: After childbirth, there are significant hormonal fluctuations in a woman’s body. The sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone levels, as well as changes in other hormones, can potentially trigger shivering and chills.
*Increased metabolism: Pregnancy and childbirth can lead to an increased metabolic rate. This elevated metabolism, coupled with physical exertion during labour, may cause the body to generate excess heat. As a result, the body may respond with shivering or chills to dissipate the extra heat.
*Exhaustion and fatigue: The process of giving birth can be physically and emotionally draining. The body may respond to exhaustion and fatigue by shivering as a way to generate heat and regulate body temperature.
*Stress and anxiety: The postpartum period can be a time of heightened stress and anxiety for many women. These emotional factors can trigger a physiological response, including shivering and chills.
*Medications and anaesthesia: Certain medications and anaesthesia used during labour and delivery may have side effects, including shivering and chills.
*Dehydration: Giving birth can be a physically demanding process, leading to fluid loss. Dehydration can contribute to shivering and chills, as well as other symptoms.
Dr Suruchi Desai, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai explained that while not all women experience postpartum chills, it’s quite common. “It can occur in both vaginal and cesarean deliveries, and there are no specific factors identified to predict who is more likely to experience it,” she said.
The expert further said that postpartum chills are generally harmless and resolve on their own. However, if the chills persist, and are accompanied by a high fever, severe pain, heavy bleeding, or foul-smelling vaginal discharge, it could indicate a postpartum infection, which requires immediate medical attention.
Agreeing, Dr Anand said that “most postpartum chills, including those linked to an epidural or a C-section, go away on their own within 20 to 30 minutes. It’s rare for shaking and shivering during or after labour to last longer than an hour”. She added that they are usually self-limiting and not a cause for concern.
“The management of postpartum chills typically involves addressing the underlying causes and providing comfort measures to alleviate the symptoms,” Dr Anand said, sharing some strategies that may help in managing postpartum chills.
*Warmth and comfort: Wear warm clothing and use blankets to keep warm. Use heating pads or warm compresses to provide additional warmth.
*Stay hydrated: Encourage drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, as it can contribute to chills. Water, herbal teas, and warm beverages can be helpful.
*Rest and relaxation: Adequate rest is essential during the postpartum period. Fatigue can contribute to chills, so prioritise self-care and allow the body to recover.
*Medication evaluation: If postpartum chills are severe or persistent, evaluate the medication being given and look for other potential causes.
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