Birth Afterpains

Posted on: July 4, 2022 | Uncategorized

The nurse came in mentioning a check to the uterus and fundal massage. What she failed to mention was that this “massage” was anything but. As the polite nurse pulled back the curtain to observe privacy, she smiled apologetically and began pressing on the top of my abdomen with a force that felt like I was giving birth all over again. These birth afterpains were no joke. “I’ll be back in 15 minutes.” She expressed and fled the room. 

As the baby nursed at the breast, my abdomen felt the birth afterpains that felt like that of childbirth. Breastfeeding is making it worse, I thought to myself. Make it stop! As the nurse entered the room 15 minutes from the last fundal “massage” I shared my concerns about breastfeeding and the pains. She shared that that was actually a good thing and that that proved that the baby was latching and eating because breastfeeding secretes oxytocin, which is causing uterine contractions. Which is allowing the body to do a natural fundal “massage”

What Are Birth Afterpains

Birth afterpains are uterine contractions after giving birth that aids in the expelling of the uterine lining, blood, and tissue. This expulsion mixture is called lochia. During this period blood clots and heavy blood flow of a menstrual period are experienced. In the instance that large clots are observed or soaking a maxi pad in an hour, one should notify their care provider for further attention. These afterpains can range in intensity based on one’s pain intolerance. Birth afterpains are indeed in a category of pain and are known to intensify with subsequent births.

Why They Happen

The uterus has expanded through the pregnancy to cocoon, grow, and keep safe the baby while in utero. After the delivery of the baby (no matter the delivery method), this organ has to regain its normal size. This process occurs as the uterus slowly retreats from a watermelon to a grapefruit-size through the birth afterpains contractions. Let’s not forget that the absence of the placenta left a dinner plate size hole in the uterus that also needs to heal. Which is all apart of the birth afterpains processing.  

How Long They Last

The body’s healing is from the birthing process and healing takes time. The birth afterpains can expect to last anywhere from 5-10 days post-delivery. As each day comes, the pains should cease in intensity and begin to become more like PMS cramps. The lochia should also begin to shift from a deep red to pink, brown, and then yellow to clear as the body has completed the shedding of the uterine lining.

How to Manage Birth Afterpains

Birth afterpains are a part of the natural healing process of the body postpartum. The discomforts of these pains can be lessened with remedies both modern and holistic. Medicinally, ibuprofen is given to help with the pain. Medical providers will also provide a little more potent medication when the need arises. On the natural side of pain relief, there are many ways to ease the pain that are already handy and available. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to alleviate birth afterpains. As we learned after pains occur as the uterus contracts. Breastfeeding promotes uterine contractions and therefore aids in this healing process more quickly. Breathing and using the same natural pain management techniques that were used in labor is helpful to utilize when experiencing birth afterpains. 

The experience of birth afterpains is a normal, albeit uncomfortable, process of postpartum and healing. Whether by an assisted fundal “massage”, breastfeeding, or any other methods to help with postpartum recovery of the uterus, feel comfort in knowing that your body is working and doing its job to heal itself.