Perhaps you’ve come across the term “labor shakes” and have no idea what it is. Labor and birth can be some of the most challenging and empowering moments in a woman’s life. Shaking during or after labor can be alarming if you don’t know what or why you’re doing it.
Yet it’s a very normal and natural response to birth and the many hormone surges going through your body. Many women have experienced it, including myself! In this article I hope to allay your fears and enlighten you as to what this curious, but normal phenomenon is.
- What Are Labor Shakes and Why Do You Get Them?
- When Do Labor Shakes Start?
- How Can You Stop Labor Shakes?
Table of Contents
What Are Labor Shakes?
The term “labor shakes” does not refer to a chocolate or strawberry milkshake, unfortunately. It refers to the uncontrollable shaking that can happen while birthing or just after. They can be mild tremors, or very intense shaking. They can happen whether you have a vaginal birth or a C-section.
They may be concentrated in your legs, back or arms, or may be felt all over your body. Not every Mama experiences them, but quite a few do. They can be a normal part of birth, given all the hormones fluctuating in the body at that time. Other symptoms that may accompany shaking include vomiting, crying, itching, and various other challenges related to labor.
Getting induced? Check out our article on when you can last eat!
Why Do You Get them?
There are various reasons for why we get labor shakes. One of the main reasons is the surge of hormones that occur during and after labor, along with fluctuations in body temperature.
When you’re pushing your baby during labor, there’s often a significant release of adrenaline to kickstart the process. This rush of adrenaline can raise your body temperature and push your system into a ‘fight or flight’ response. This in turn can sometimes mimic the symptoms of shock.
Women also experience a surge of oxytocin while birthing, whether they are induced or birthing unmedicated–oxytocin stimulates uterine contractions. The combined impact of these hormones creates the perfect conditions for experiencing shakiness.
For some it could be the temperature difference of IV fluids they may be receiving. Typically IV’s are colder than our core temperature, so having something cold literally running through your veins may lower your base temperature and thus cause shakes.
In some cases, women may develop labor shakes after receiving an epidural. The way an epidural affects the body, along with the introduction of a “foreign substance” into the spinal cord, can trigger shivering. For some it is also because IV’s are given before and even after an epidural, which are colder than our basal temperature.
Others might start shaking after giving birth. This can occur due to the ‘fight or flight’ response, blood loss, or fluid loss. All of these factors can contribute to experiencing labor shakes.
Other theories for the causes of shaking during labor include if fetal blood comes into contact with your blood and there is an incompatibility, you may feel shaky. In cases where you have an infection during childbirth, which can lead to fever and chills, shaking may happen.
Regardless of the specific cause, it’s important to remember that experiencing body tremors or labor shakes is a normal part of the process after all the hard work you’ve gone through. If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to inform the medical professional assisting you. You can also scroll down to find some tips that may help alleviate these symptoms.
When Do Labor Shakes Start?
Some of the most common times that the labor shakes and quakes start is around the 5-6 cm dilated mark, during transition, and immediately after birth. These are big hormonal markers, whether you’re gearing up for birthing your baby, or whether your body is reacting to having just birthed a baby. While these are not guaranteed times, it is helpful to have an idea so you can tune in to your own body and its rhythms.
It can be different for every woman. For one women, it was right after their water broke, for another woman it was after the epidural she received, for me it was right after I birthed the placenta.
In my situation, I felt this huge wave go through me, starting at my head and going down to my toes, then I started shaking. They wrapped me up in a warm blanket and put my son on my chest. But the thing I really wanted was Sprite (I typically hate Sprite!). I have no idea why my body needed Sprite of all things, perhaps after pushing for three hours it just needed a little bit of sugar (remember this was simply my situation, it is not medical advice).
How Long Do Labor Shakes Last?
The duration and intensity of labor shakes can vary from one woman to another. They can range from mild, hardly noticeable tremors to intense shaking. They may last for just a few minutes or persist for up to an hour after giving birth. Mine only lasted about twenty to thirty minutes before subsiding.
If you find that the shaking continues beyond this timeframe, or if you experience shaking at home, it’s essential to talk with your healthcare provider. Prolonged shaking could be an indication of an infection or another underlying medical issue that requires attention.
How to Stop the Shakes During Labor?
Because each delivery and Mama are different, the answer to stopping labor shakes is, it depends. I know that can be hard to hear, but if there was one method that worked for everyone, all doulas, healthcare providers, nurses and hospitals would be adopting it. However, some helpful tips I’ve researched include the following.
Sticking Your Tongue Out and Gently Biting It: You do need to be a little careful with this one, if your shakes are a little more intense, you don’t want to accidentally bite your tongue harder than you meant to! This may be an odd tip, but something about doing it helps your brain to redirect and calm down. Maybe simply because you are putting pressure in another area of your body.
A Warm blanket or Towel: Warmth can be a key helper in this situation. Asking for a blanket or warm towel can help your body regulate its body temperature and cause relaxation. Having warm compresses placed into socks and on your feet can also help.
Warm Shower or Bath: Again, incorporating that warmth, if it’s possible in this form, will allow your body to relax
Skin to Skin Contact With Your Newborn : This tip not only helps baby when coming out of the womb, but could be a help for you if you are shaking. By doing skin to skin, your body will regulate the hormone oxytocin and allow it to be released in the brain. That in turn will help to regulate your body. Having your new baby will also be able to help the possible flight or fight response you could be having, due to the adrenaline rush of birthing.
Massage: If a partner, doula, or nurse can massage your legs and arms it can help the muscles to relax and for the shaking tremors to loosen. Stiffening up or tensing through them can make them worse.
Drink Fluids: During birth, you’ve just had a massive fluid shift and loss, drinking fluids will help your body to recuperate.
Get Some Privacy and Rest: Birth is often a jarring whirlwind experience–there are many people moving in and around you, glaring lights, and exhaustion from labor. If you are in a hospital setting, this is even more so. If possible, you can ask for only the immediate needs to be met and ask anyone else to give you a moment.
It’s important to remember that labor shakes are normal and short lived. They are our body’s way of recovering from birth and the large amounts of hormonal shifts we’ve gone through. They will be over before you know it! Then you will be able to focus on cuddling your newborn and healing. If you’ve ever had the shakes during labor, let us know in a comment!
Niki Cowan has a background in Medicine and Public Health. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist as well as a Medical Assistant. She’s passionate about Women’s Health and empowering women in their journeys. She is married to her wonderful husband Kevin, and they have an active son. While trying to have another little one hasn’t worked out yet, she is pursuing her passions and hoping to gain further education and experience in the area she loves, while playing with her son. She’s an avid reader, Original Great British Baking Show watcher, and very amateur kickboxer.