As you go through your pregnancy, your body experiences a whirlwind of changes. Because of this, it’s no surprise that you may be sore or uncomfortable after your baby’s birth. That said, I don’t think any of us really expect the cramps and pain that come with postpartum afterpains.
The first time I experienced postpartum afterpains was quite a shock for me. I’d almost say they were worse than labor because they lasted a couple days instead of just a couple hours.
After Conner, my oldest son, was born, I didn’t have afterpains at all.
I vaguely remember being asked if I’d experienced them and I just shrugged and said no.
That was the last I heard of it until Jackson was born. I sat down to nurse him the day after he was born and gasped as an intense wave of pain washed over me.
It felt like the worst menstrual cramps I’d ever experienced and I could feel the pain in the top of my legs clear up to my back.
I pulled Jackson away thinking something had to be wrong with me. Feeding my baby had never been so painful when I’d nursed Conner.
I called my mother up and told her what I was experiencing and asked if I should call my doctor. She told me I was experiencing postpartum afterpains and that it was just one of those things that come with having a baby.
After talking to her, I gingerly put the phone down and stared at my baby. Slowly, I started to feed him again and the afterpains came back with a jolt. I gritted my teeth and, after a couple minutes they abated a little.
Over the next week, I experienced afterpains every time I fed my baby.
I had them again after Jayden was born and that time it wasn’t only while I was nursing. Fed up with them, I researched it quite a bit to find out what was causing them, why they were worse with each baby, and what I could do about them!
What Causes Postpartum Afterpains?
When you first become pregnant, your uterus is typically the size of a small orange. Throughout your pregnancy, it expands to accommodate your growing baby until, by the time you give birth, it is about the size of a watermelon.
Once your baby is born, your uterus has to return to its normal size and it does so in a fraction of the time it took to grow. It starts out by contracting so that it can shrink back to its regular size. These contractions are the source of the afterpains and postpartum cramps you’re experiencing.
You’ll find that your afterpains are usually more intense while you nurse your baby because breastfeeding triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin and this hormone is what causes the contractions.
As you experience them, recognize that it is your body trying to return to its pre-pregnancy state and it is a good thing. Also recognize they help to reduce postpartum blood loss and shouldn’t last for more than a couple days or a week at most.
If you’re a first time mom, you may not even feel these cramps at all or, if you do, they’ll probably be very mild. Don’t worry though, that doesn’t mean your uterus isn’t shrinking.
First time moms typically have much stronger uterine muscles and after their baby is born the uterus contracts and stays contracted until it’s back to it’s normal size.
If you’ve had more than one baby, the muscle tone in your uterus isn’t the same. It’s not as strong as it was the first time around and it alternates between relaxing, then contracting, then relaxing again. This triggers afterpains and cramps.
What Can You do to Reduce Afterpains?
At their best, afterpains are uncomfortable; at their worst, they’re extremely painful. I was told after my second son was born that there wasn’t a whole lot I could do for them unless I wanted to take medication for the pain.
Of course I didn’t want to do that so I suffered through it. When Jayden was born, I thought there had to be something I could do so I looked into ways I could alleviate the pain and was surprised to find there’s actually a lot you can do!
Here are some of the best ways to reduce afterpains and cramps after a baby.
I’d highly recommend you use a some kind of girdle or belly band for at least six weeks after your baby is born. Though they didn’t stop the afterpains, I found the cramping was ten times worse when I didn’t wear a girdle then it was when I did.
When you wear a girdle, it gently holds in your stomach and helps your uterus and all your other organs return to their rightful place. Without one, it all hangs out and it’s much more painful when your uterus contracts and tries to return to its regular size and place on its own.
This stuff doesn’t taste that great (ok, it kinda tastes horrible) but it’s very inexpensive and helps phenomenally to reduce afterpains and cramps so I don’t really mind the taste myself.
You can take it in a glass of water and drink it before you feed your baby or, if you need something right away, put some under your tongue and your body should absorb it immediately.
This will always be a postpartum must for me!
Massage Your Lower Belly
When you feel the afterpains coming on, it helps quite a bit to massage your lower belly or the area you’re where the cramping is the worst.
Use the Same Breathing and Relaxation Techniques You Used During Labor
Do you remember those breathing and relaxation exercises you felt silly practicing while you were pregnant? If you actually used them during your labor, I hope you found they helped quite a bit! You can use those same exercises and techniques when you experience after pains to help alleviate them.
Start Exercising as Soon as Possible
I know the last thing you want to think about right now is exercising but it’ll actually help you heal several times faster and also help to significantly reduce your afterpains.
I’m not at all recommending you grab the weights and work up a sweat, that’ll cause more damage than good and is something your body definitely won’t be ready for. What you should do is start with walking, kegels, and some of these pelvic floor exercises.
Do these types of exercises for a couple weeks after your baby is born before you attempt more intense exercises.
Use a Heating Pad or Rag With Essential Oils
One thing that I did do after my second son was born was use a warm rag with essential oils on my stomach and back. My mom has always been a big advocate of essential oils and recommended I use them to help with the afterpains and several other things.
Put a couple drops of lavender and frankincense onto a warm washcloth and lay it over your stomach or mix them into a carrier oil and put them over your belly or back with a good heating pad on top. It’ll help you to relax and does do quite a bit to relieve afterpains.
Did you experience afterpains after your son or daughter was born? Did you try any of these methods or another to alleviate them? Let me know by leaving a comment below?
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