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Labor Fears - Heat, Cold, Shivering


 By far the one thing I feel pregnant people are under prepared for in labor is the changes that happen to our bodies; specifically heat, cold, and shivering. There may be a time in labor when you are just freezing and shivering and other times when you are hot as Hades.  Did you know 50% of women get the shivers and teeth chattering during labor


Researchers still are not completely sure why this happens.  One theory from Parents Magazine: “The jury's still out on what exactly causes this, but the latest evidence points to blood incompatibility. "During labor, a small amount of fetal blood crosses into the mother's bloodstream," says Henry Klapholz, M.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School, in Boston. "Studies show that if there's an incompatibility in blood type between mother and baby -- for example, your blood is type A and your baby's is type B -- the mother shakes, shivers, and gets chills." 


Another theory is that it is hormonal changes and your bodies reaction to those changes that causes the sensation of heat, cold, and/or shivering.  So what are some things that you can do to plan and manage the sensations of heat and cold?




  • Ice – use a container filled with ice, a little water and 12 wash cloths.  Soak the cloths in the container and keep ready for when you get hot.  They can be rotated in and out so you have a constant supply to get you through even a long labor.

  • Shapeable Ice Pack - Baggie with ice/alcohol:  Mix 1 part rubbing alcohol with 3 parts water in a Ziploc bag and put in the freezer. (Alcohol prevents the water from freezing completely.) When it’s frozen, wrap with a towel or cloth of some sort and apply.

  • Personal hand held fans -  Mister -  There are great ones on the market and they are inexpensive.  I have seen some great ones on Amazon:

  • Option One

  • Option Two


  • Cooling Towels

  • I have seen these new cooling towels everywhere.  You can purchase them at your local big box store, sporting goods store, and even Aldi’s has them.  On Amazon I found this one with good reviews:

  • Option One – Evaporative Cooling Ergodyne

  • There is also this inventive product that includes a head band for comforting relief during pushing:

  • Options Two

  • Box fan & A/C

  • Most hospitals have a fan and are air conditioned.  If you are birthing at home remember to get a fan and hopefully you do have air conditioning.  I remind pregnant people that they are in charge of room temperature, so anyone attending the birth layer your clothes so you can remain comfortable too.

Cold, shivering, teeth chattering

  • Heated Blankets – Most hospitals have heated blankets.  If you are birthing at home, I recommend you have extra blankets on hand and warm them up in the dryer to help you if you get cold.

  • Hot Shower – During labor a hot shower can make you feel so much better.  It helps with pain relief, warmth, and you feel better after being in the water.  A tip to the partner is to bring your swim suit so you can support your partner in the shower.

  • Heat Packs – in the hospital that have packs that can be used for warmth and also for easing pain

  • Heating Pads -  Having a heating pad available during labor can provide some warmth if you are really cold in a certain area.  I always enjoy it on my lower back and envision it spreading out through my nervous system.

  • Rice Socks /  Microwaveable Heat Packs (many options online – here is a good one https://www.pinterest.com/pin/159244536802865419/). Remember to not put the sock directly on the skin without checking the heat first.  Also do not use a rice sock on the back of a person with an epidural.  They may not be able to tell the heat and could get burned.

  • Bear hugs – Hugging the pregnant person can sometimes help with shivering and teeth chattering in labor. Birth Companions, grandparents, and doulas can all help with the shivers through hugging if the pregnant person is OK with it.  An alternative to hugging is while the pregnant person is lying down one person presses in on one side of the body while another does the other side.  This offers the hug without being in their personal space so much.

Many of my birthing clients like to use affirmations or mantras to help them through the difficult parts of labor.  Below are some suggestions for dealing with these temperature changes:

  • I envision myself in a cold space. 

  • I envision myself on a warm beach.

  • I feel the cold air envelop me.

  • I feel the sun shining on my head and spreading its warmth along my skin.

  • As the cold air is directed on to my body I feel each cell being filled with an icy, tingling, and refreshing feeling.

  • I have control of the temperature of the room.

  • My Birth Companion is aware and knows to stay on top of the temperature in the room for me.

Because we often don’t know what you might feel or experience in labor, I feel it is important to plan in advance.  I hope you find the above suggestions helpful. 


Did you experience heat, cold, or shivering during labor?  How did you deal with it? 



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