Your body just did the most beautiful thing, it grew another human and birthed it. As you sit with bliss filled eyes, adoring your new baby, you start to feel period cramps. You think to yourself “What is going on here. I already had the baby, I thought I was done with pain. And when I breastfeed, its worse!” At least this was my situation. After I had my first baby, I was not expecting Aunt Flo cramps to “cramp my style”, if you will. I quickly called the nurse in, insisting something was wrong. What she was about to explain to me would blow my mind. I had no idea what my body was about to endure during the 4th trimester, aka postpartum.
What Are After Birth Pains?
After birth, your body needs time to heal and return to its pre-pregnancy state. Cramping (or “after birth pains”) are a normal part of this process. The cramping you feel is your uterus working at shrinking back to its normal size. It will be more intense the first day or two after birth and will start to subside about 7-10 days after birth. The experience will be the same whether you gave birth vaginally or via C-section.
If you choose to breastfeed, the cramping may be more intense during your nursing session. This is a good sign that your baby is latching on correctly. Your baby’s sucking triggers the release of oxytocin which causes the cramping. This is a good thing as it will help your uterus return to its normal size faster and help prevent too much blood loss which can cause anemia.
How to Relieve the Pain
Just because this pain is a normal part of the postpartum period, doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through it. There are many ways to bring relief. You can take over the counter pain relivers like Ibuprofen or Tylenol. These pain relivers are safe while breastfeeding. If they are not helping with the pain, be sure to mention that to your healthcare provider.
Another way is to keep your bladder empty. When your bladder is full, your uterus can’t contract properly which causes more pain and increased bleeding. Getting up to empty your bladder before feeding your baby is a good way to routinely empty it. Remember what we said before, the cramping may be more intense during breastfeeding. So, if you have a full bladder, it will be even more intense. Yikes! You can also use heat, rest or relaxation breathing techniques.
When to be Concerned
You will want to call your healthcare provider if you experience the following symptoms:
- Fever, 100.4 or higher
- Severe lower abdominal pain
- Cramping doesn’t resolve
- Pain or burning when you pee
- Soaking through a pad in an hour
- Foul-smelling discharge
The Bottom Line
Your body has a lot of work to do after birth; heal, make milk and return to pre-pregnancy state all while caring for another human being who is totally dependent on you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, your health matters too. Your body is amazing and it can do amazing things. Trust your body, trust your instinct and remember—you got this mama!