The following post contains affiliate links, however all opinions remain my own. For more information, read my full disclosure policy. The following article should not take the place of medical advice; please consult with your doctor before beginning any medications or herbal remedies.
When women think about the pain of childbirth, most often they are thinking about the contractions leading up to the birth and the birth itself. Perhaps one of the best kept secrets, however, is that you continue to have contractions after the baby is out!
Upon expelling your baby from your body, your uterus begins the process of shrinking itself back to its pre-pregnancy size in a process called involution. During this time, women may experience light to severe cramping, or may not feel anything at all. First time mothers are less likely to feel the cramps as their uterus is more toned, and many women find that the pain gets progressively worse with each subsequent child. The involution process can take up to 6 weeks to complete – luckily, most women find the pain eases up by day three.
Breast feeding can often trigger afterpains, as nursing stimulates the release of oxytocin (the love and bonding hormone), which stimulates contractions which help the uterus shrink. Think of it as a good thing.
With my l’il bub (you can read our full birth story here), I had very intense afterbirth pains, which I wasn’t expecting. They would come in waves and my whole body would tense up in anticipation. They would come on randomly and as a product of nursing. I found them to be as painful as some of my most intense contractions.
While there is nothing you can do to stop the involution process (trust me, it’s a good thing. You’re body is doing exactly what it needs to), you have options on how to manage the pain.
- Don’t Overexert Yourself – Relax and let other people take care of you. Limit guests. You just gave birth, its okay to limit the people you see, you don’t have to entertain people. Whether you gave birth in a hospital, birth center, or at home, you need rest and you deserve to be taken care of. Let other people tend to your needs and household chores. Just worry about your baby.
- Stay Hydrated and Fueled – Drink plenty of water and eat a wide variety of food to get your nutrients – this will make the process easier for your body.
- Urinate Often – A too full bladder can push on the uterus, making the process painful. So empty your bladder often.
- Relax – Similar to contractions felt during labor, tension can increase pain. Make sure to relax yourself as much as possible to diminish pain.
- Consume Your Placenta – Consider consuming your placenta – many women claim they feel much better after consuming their placenta. It can be consumed raw, in a smoothie, or ground into pills or a tincture. See my article The Pros and Cons of Eating Your Placenta for more information.
- Tincture – WishGarden makes an afterbirth tincture to relieve pain called AfterEase. It contains Yarrow aerials, Motherwort aerials, Black Haw bark, and Crampbark in a gluten free alcohol base. While I have not tried this product myself, it has great reviews, and I plan on slipping it into my next natural labor bag. You can purchase it on Amazon (affiliate) for $18.85 USD.
- Essential Oils – Try diffusing 2 drops lavender, 2 drops white fir (available on my doTerra store or at most healthfood stores to create a relaxing environment. Alternatively, my labor massage oil can be gently massaged on to the abdomen to promote healing.
- Painkillers – As a last resort, many women find relief with painkillers such as ibuprofin (not aspirin… which can increase bleeding). Consult your doctor before use. Keep in mind that some medication can disrupt breastfeeding and bonding with a newborn. Weigh the pros and cons with yourself. It may be something you need to do to get relief.
Afterpains can be really intense, and surprising to a lot of new mommies, as it’s something that is not often talked about. Being prepared can make a huge difference in how you are able to cope. If the pain hasn’t eased up in a few days, or it becomes unbearable, definitely talk to your healthcare provider as something could be wrong. Better to be safe than sorry.
Did you have afterbirth pains? How did you deal with them? Will you be using any of these tips?