The lowdown on postpartum chills

Posted on February 14th, 2019

Feel like you’ve got chills? And they’re multiplying? Relax – it’s only postpartum shivering. It might be unpleasant, but it’s harmless. Here’s what you need to know. By Lisa Witepski

Postpartum chills

Just when you thought all of the strange parts of pregnancy had left your body along with your baby, you start shivering uncontrollably. For some women, postpartum chills are mild while others experience violent shivers. Either way, it’s not dangerous for you or your baby.

ALSO SEE: Post-pregnancy body changes you can expect

What it feels like

“I had postpartum chills with my second son, delivered by C-section. I shivered so much I didn’t think I would be able to take care of him! It was very scary, but fortunately I didn’t need any treatment.” – Lenore

“I shivered uncontrollably after my first son for about an hour. I was freezing cold, shaking madly and crying hysterically. I thought it was just shock from the C-section.” – Kate

“I had postpartum chills, but luckily my midwife was by my side telling me what to expect, reassuring me that it was normal and it would pass soon. She guided me through it with controlled breathing, and it lasted about 20 minutes.” – Aimee.

What exactly is postpartum shivering?

Dr Howard Manyonga, obstetrician and head of The Birthing Team, explains postpartum chills are “involuntary shivering that occurs during, or shortly after, childbirth.” It’s considered a natural phenomenon and usually has nothing to do with fever – if it does, you may need to be checked out for infection.

ALSO SEE: 7 things that happen during labour that no one tells you about

What causes it?

Dr Howard says the cause of postpartum chills isn’t known for sure. “It may be related to the rapid hormonal changes and fluid shifts that take place in your body at this time. Some studies have suggested it could also be related to foetal blood entering the mother’s blood system, which happens frequently during childbirth.”

How do you treat it?

Your midwife or doctor will examine you to make sure there’s no infection, just in case. If all’s fine, there’s little that can be done besides waiting things out. “The chills will eventually subside without specific treatment,” Dr Howard promises.

Lisa Witepski

About Lisa Witepski

In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.