Shaking Uncontrollably During Labor Is Totally Normal So Don’t Panic

labor painWhen you make a new mom friend, comparing labor tales is the equivalent of the, “where are you from, what do you do,” chitchat that often happens on a first date. It can reassuring to hear that others had the same complications you did, or interesting to hear about a birth that was vastly different from your own. Often when I talk with other moms about their labor experience, we both note how we had uncontrollable shaking during childbirth that we didn’t anticipate and no ideas as to why it happened.

I thought I was well prepared for anything that could happen in the delivery room, having spent most of the time I was on bed rest reading pregnancy books and getting into fights on parenting websites. However, when I started to experience shaking during childbirth, I didn’t know if what was happening to me was normal. I wasn’t surprised when the anesthesiologist pulled out a needle that looked long enough to reach China to perform my epidural, I was calm as a cucumber when my three hours of pushing resulted in nothing but an emergency C-section and I was even prepared for the vomiting that came after my babies were delivered. But those uncontrollable full body shakes caught me unaware and were pretty frightening.

Rebecca Gruber recently wrote a piece for chronicling her own experiences with shaking during labor that I really related to. Like Gruber, I remember having trouble getting sentences out because my teeth were banging together and having a nurse try to help me stop shaking by wrapping my top half in extra blankets.

While I thought it was possible that the shaking was due either to how cold the delivery room was or fact that I was mostly naked during the c-section, I secretly assumed my epidural was to blame. I didn’t have a great reaction to the epidural medication in general– things got a little scary both when I got the initial epidural and when they boosted it (not a technical medical term, I know) right before the c-section. My body had a bad reaction and machines started beeping and everyone stopped joking. I lost a couple minutes each time but based on what my husband has told me from being there, it wasn’t pretty.

But as it turns out, shaking during labor isn’t a side effect of having an epidural. Shaking during labor is actually caused by hormones, so they can happen to all women, even those who have drug-free labors. says all the hormones that come into play during labor can cause a woman’s body to have a physical reaction similar to shock. According to source Desiree Bley, MD, OB-GYN:

Labor shakes are related to hormone shifts, adrenaline response and temperature.  We’re all different so some women get them and some don’t.  I had a patient who bit her tongue because her teeth were chattering so hard.”

So the bad news is that having uncontrollable shaking during labor can happen to any of us. They’re just another potential obstacle to overcome on the path towards having your baby. But if you experience shaking during labor, hopefully it will be comforting to know that what’s happening is just your body’s natural reaction to childbirth.

(image:wong yu liang/

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