A is for Afterpains

You’ve just gone through hours of labor and delivered your baby, the pain is over now right?  Wrong!  After your baby is born you will still experience contractions referred to as afterpains.  These contractions are caused by the involution of your uterus from its pregnant state back to its non-pregnant state – roughly the size of a pear.  Some moms describe these as a barely noticeable or a mild annoyance while others compare their intensity to labor contractions.

As frustrating as these pains are while you are trying to bond with your new baby, they are necessary to shrink your uterus and prevent postpartum hemorrhage and anemia. The contractions normally intensify while your baby is breastfeeding and when the nurses give you your fundal massage.  Afterpains can also be worse for second-time moms, or third, fourth, and fifth-time moms (supposedly they don’t get worse after the 5th baby)!  Some moms say it gets worse with each baby, and some say they never even noticed them with their first.  Involution typically lasts about six weeks, but thankfully the contractions get much more bearable after the first few days.  These annoying and possibly painful contractions are very important to ensure your uterus shrinks back to its original size completely, expelling all blood clots and preventing further blood loss.  These afterpains are similar whether you’ve delivered vaginally or via c-section.  You may feel gushes of blood the first few days during these contractions as well – this is normal, as long as you don’t have any blood clots larger than an egg – if you have large clots make sure your inform your nurse or OBGYN.

Just like during labor, contractions are caused by the hormone oxytocin.  After your baby is born, oxytocin can be released when breastfeeding and when holding your baby skin-to-skin.  So be prepared to possibly feel contractions every time you nurse for the next few weeks.  If these contractions are really intense it is safe to take pain medicine for some relief such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.  If you want more natural methods you may find relief from a heating pad.  Deep relaxing breaths like you may have used during labor can also help you relax through these contractions.  Hot stone massages can also provide great relief.

Did you know about afterpains before having your baby?  How intense were your afterpainns? 

Next week I will be blogging on the letter B… B is for Bleeding.  In the meantime check out the other blog series “ABCs of Pregnancy”, “ABCs of Labor and Delivery”, & “ABCs of Babies”.  Check back each week for new blogs in each series.