Do you have postpartum chills? Some of you may even have postpartum night sweats and chills. But is it anything to worry about?
The good news is that generally speaking, those cold chills after your c-section aren’t automatically a cause for concern. It’s been a while since my c-sections, and I’m trying to remember my feelings. The most common postpartum memory I can recall, aside from c-section pain, was the postpartum night sweats and chills about 2 weeks later. Again, normal.
Let’s get into what’s going on with that, plus I’ll address your other concerns. In one word: hormones! They’re always causing trouble, aren’t they?
Why You Get Postpartum Chills
If you have cold chills after a c-section or even after vaginal delivery, it’s actually a very normal occurrence. The key, though, is to note whether this is postpartum fever and chills or you suddenly start chattering your teeth and shivering.
There’s a difference here, especially right after delivery. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s likely due to heat loss, fluid loss, and hormonal changes fluctuating in your body. These changes right here are all very regular and part of the process of your body trying to get back to normal, whether you have a c-section or natural birth.
Some of you may experience this while you’re in labor. I remember feeling extremely chilly in the operating room, but then again, they keep that place like an industrial freezer. Still, if you feel like your teeth are chattering during labor or hours after, whether the room is, in fact, frigid or warm, it’s not a cause for concern.
You don’t have to sit there being uncomfortable, though. You can tell the nurse, and they will likely check your temperature just to be sure because fever and chills after a c-section could be a sign of infection. They’ll be watching you closely, and if you don’t have a fever, you’ll likely be given some more blankets to warm up with.
When to Be Concerned About Postpartum Body Aches and Chills
In the hospital, they’ll be looking after you. If you feel like you’re shivering, speak up. It’s most likely your body trying to regulate itself when no fever is present. The key is not to fight the shivering and find your comfort. Too much shivering could cause your incision to rip.
The feeling would be more of a shiver, like if you went outside on a snowy day to get the mail while only wearing shorts and a t-shirt. When you’re experiencing the kind of chills you feel when you have the flu, which aches down to your bones, it could indicate an infection. Again, this is why it’s so important to let the doctors and nurses helping you recover know if you feel any of these things.
And if there’s no fever, no worries. The shivering will pass soon. 🙂
Blood Loss and Its Role
When you have postpartum chills, even in the first few days after giving birth, you must remember that your body is busy returning to normal without a fever. You lose a lot of blood during the birthing process. The human body, particularly for women, is really amazing in that it anticipates that blood loss and increases your blood volume while you’re pregnant.
Pretty cool, right? More like pretty chilly! 🙄
Despite this increase, you’re still losing blood, and your body will likely respond with shivers postpartum.
How Do I Stop It?
If you’re shivering away and your temperature is normal, bundle up with some extra blankets and socks. Always keep an eye on your temperature once you get home and note if you feel any other feverish symptoms like aches and pains. Those symptoms will require a call to your doctor right away.
Can an Epidural Cause Chills?
Some of you might be wondering if the drugs you’re given at the hospital play a role in giving you the chills. If you have an epidural, the answer is definitely yes, though some of the other medicines you’re given may cause a similar effect. Again, normal. Tell the hospital staff, and they’ll keep an eye on you and give you more blankets.
Is It Normal to Have Chills while Breastfeeding?
As you get used to being a new mama and your body tries to adjust, you may experience those shivers in the first few days. And without a fever, it’s definitely normal and ok. But if it’s later in the week after or the following weeks and you experience chills during breastfeeding, that’s not normal.
Listening to your body is important, as chills while breastfeeding could indicate early signs of mastitis. The symptoms are much like the flu. You’ll have chills and aches, a fever of 101F or even higher, and sometimes, feel a hard lump in your breast or have nipple discharge.
Mastitis can be very painful, and you’ll certainly want to contact your doctor about any of those symptoms. You’ll need to keep your milk flowing out of your ducts, stay hydrated, and avoid tight-fitting clothes.
While I didn’t have chills while breastfeeding, I did have mastitis several months after my eldest was born. I was very grateful for my breastfeeding coach, Vivien, who helped me get things moving and reduce the swelling.
She recommended using cabbage leaves, something very plentiful in China. I was astonished that they helped relieve my engorged breasts and got me back to normal. Yes, there is science behind it! Still, I recommend you speak to your doctor first before trying this remedy.
Are Hot and Cold Flashes Normal after Pregnancy?
One thing I definitely remember in those sleepless nights after having my eldest (and later on, my youngest) was those annoying hot flashes and night sweats. You might be as surprised as I was to learn those aren’t just for the years during “The Change.” They happen as your hormones shift during and after pregnancy.
Studies have found they’re widespread for both pregnant women and new moms. After having a baby, your estrogen levels are low, and your body is trying to get used to not being pregnant anymore. When your hormones fluctuate, it can make you feel either hot or cold.
Your body sweats more postpartum because you’ve retained excess fluids. After giving birth, the fluids your body takes on to support that sweet baby growing inside you are no longer needed, so it sheds it through sweat. Urine too. The main reason I was sad to see that catheter come out after both of my c-sections.
Generally, these things will all balance out in time, but if they’re really affecting you to the point of disturbing the quality of your life, call your doctor. You’ll want to be sure it’s not related to hyperthyroidism.
These night sweats usually kick up around 2 weeks after giving birth. They should fade out soon enough, but if it’s more than 6 weeks later and you’re still going through it, definitely talk to that doctor of yours.
How You Can Stop Those Hot and Cold Flashes
Again, your body needs time to adjust. If you’re not experiencing a fever, you must learn to self-regulate until your hormones balance. This could take around 6 weeks. You don’t have to suffer the whole time, though.
Here’s what you can do to stop hot and cold flashes in their tracks!
- Keep cool
Your sleep environment is so important. Yes, even if the baby keeps you from really sleeping. You’ll want to ensure your room is cold enough (and dress baby warmly enough), try a fan or opening a window, and use lightweight bedding in layers to adjust how you feel. Some women swear by self-wicking clothing. Basically, turn your bedroom into a den of Zen for a more cozy sleep.
- More water
It sounds odd to recommend drinking more water when your body is trying to purge it. But this keeps you from becoming dehydrated. Plus, you’ll want to drink up because it helps your body return to normal faster.
- Consider soy
Soy seems to be a relevant answer for menopausal women, so it might be something you can try too. Have some tofu, tempeh, or miso, but do ask your doctor before embarking on dietary changes or if you plan to take supplements to ensure it’s safe for your situation.
- Watch out for triggers
Certain things you eat and drink could set off those night sweats. Anything spicy, hot foods or liquids, or alcohol and caffeine could be the culprit. Try limiting those foods and drinks and see if that makes a difference.
- Balance diet and exercise
The exercise bit is tough to combat postpartum chills in the first few weeks since you need to have your postpartum checkup first. But walking is always encouraged to help you get the blood flowing and recover after having a baby. So is eating right. Focus on veggies and fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats, which can all help mitigate the unpleasant symptoms of postpartum.
Final Thoughts on the Chills
Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy and even after birth. Whether vaginally or by c-section, cut yourself some slack on returning to normal. It takes time for your body to adjust accordingly. The key thing to watch is fever. Once you’re home and getting used to life, if you come down with a fever, make sure you contact your doctor to rule out infections or other conditions. And, of course, sneak in as much rest as you can (biggest mom challenge ever!).
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.