Postpartum: Cramps (afterpains)

Postpartum: Cramps (afterpains)

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Why am I having painful cramps after delivery?

The cramps known as afterbirth pains, or simply afterpains, are caused by contractions of your uterus as it returns to its prepregnancy size after you have your baby. (This process is called "involution.")

Afterpains are typically mild for first-time moms (if you feel them at all) and don't last long. But they can be quite uncomfortable after a second delivery and usually get worse with each successive delivery. That's because first-time mothers tend to have better uterine muscle tone, which means the uterus can contract and stay contracted, rather than relaxing and contracting intermittently.

Cramping will be most intense for the first day or two after giving birth, but it should taper off around the third day. (Though it can take six weeks or longer for your uterus to return to normal size.)

Breastfeeding can bring on afterpains or make them more intense because your baby's sucking triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which in turn causes contractions. (This is actually a good thing: The cramps brought on by breastfeeding help your uterus shrink to normal size more quickly, reducing your risk of postpartum anemia from blood loss.)

How can I relieve afterpains?

Here are a few tips to minimize your discomfort:

  • Try to pee often, even if you don't feel the urge to go. A full bladder displaces the uterus so it can't contract completely.
  • Lie facedown with a pillow under your lower belly.
  • Lie facedown with a warm heating pad under your lower belly.
  • Gently massage your lower belly.
  • Take ibuprofen. Let your provider know if it doesn't give you relief – she may recommend (or prescribe) another medication.

Call your provider if the cramping hasn't started to ease up after a few days, or if the pain becomes unbearable. These could be signs of infection or another problem that requires medical attention.

Watch the video: Postpartum Care: Changes in Your Body After Delivery (June 2022).


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