With my first child, I was totally unprepared for the afterbirth pains. I went through the pregnancy with all of its ups and downs and then the pain of delivery. I’d heard that postpartum recovery could be trying but I had no idea what to expect.
Soon after the birth, I began having very uncomfortable cramps. They would come and go. They were similar to menstrual cramps but more intense. I just wanted to enjoy my baby. Thankfully, my doctor explained what was going on and what to do about it.
After birth, the uterus begins to shrink back to its normal size by contracting. It is also shifting and moving back to its original pre-pregnancy position. This could feel like cramps and should only last a 10-14 days after birth. These cramps are also known as the afterbirth pains or afterpains.
My afterbirth pains were the worst each time I began breastfeeding. Breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin. This is the hormone responsible for the contractions I breathed (or yelled!) through during delivery. It makes sense that it could cause some pain after the delivery, too.
I tried to think of the cramps as one step in the direction of going back to my pre-pregnancy self. The cramps were helping my uterus return to its normal size. During pregnancy, the body produced lots of fluids to maintain the life of the baby and now, they were all being flushed out because they were no longer needed.
THINGS TO HELPS EASE THE DISCOMFORT OF POSTPARTUM UTERUS CONTRACTIONS
There were two things that the doctor recommended that helped tremendously. The first was massage. Massaging the uterus gently every half hour or so helps to stimulate it and continue the natural cycle or shrinking back to normal size. Although this can be slightly uncomfortable, it should not be painful. Apply gentle pressure and work in a circular motion.
The other thing was a heating pad or warm cloths. The heat relaxes the muscles between these cramps and just feels good.
There are other things you can try, as well.
- I always took acetaminophen or ibuprofen postpartum until all of the pain subsided.
- Empty your bladder often, as a full bladder interrupts these uterus contractions.
- I know it’s been ages since you were able to lie on your stomach and, for some women, this is the perfect time. Lying on your stomach with a pillow under your lower abdomen can help relieve the discomfort.
WHEN TO BE CONCERNED
These cramps shouldn’t last long and they shouldn’t be unbearable, only uncomfortable. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or if the cramps last longer than two weeks. These symptoms can be a sign of infection or other postpartum complications.
THE NORMAL HEALING PROCESS
These cramps were mild with my first child but did get less tolerable with consecutive deliveries. Even so, they still weren’t bad. Your body knows how to heal itself and return to normal. Just sit back and watch in wonder of it all as you hold that precious baby that you just brought into the world.