Postpartum pain

What is Postpartum Pain?

Postpartum pain, also known as postpartum discomfort, is pain usually experienced by women after they give birth. It is completely normal and commonly caused by hormone fluctuations brought on by pregnancy and childbirth. Postpartum pain is usually experienced in the lower abdomen and pelvic region, and can be managed with the help of medication, exercise and other methods.

Types of Postpartum Pain

  • Engorgement: Engorgement is a common result of the increase in hormones due to pregnancy. It is caused by an increase in the size of the breasts, as they fill with milk and put pressure on the nearby tissues. This can cause sensations of heaviness, fullness, and tightness.
  • Postpartum Cramps: Postpartum cramps are usually caused by the uterine contractions that occur during the first few days after childbirth. These contractions help the uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size. Pain and/or cramping in the lower abdomen may be experienced while the uterus is shrinking.
  • Perineal Pain: During childbirth, the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) can be stretched and injured, resulting in pain, bruising, and swelling. This type of postpartum pain can persist for weeks and is sometimes accompanied by incontinence problems.

Managing Postpartum Pain

Postpartum pain usually dissipates within a few weeks, but there are some strategies which can be used to help relieve the discomfort.

  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Be sure to discuss any medication you plan to take with your doctor.
  • Comfortable Clothing: Wearing loose clothing and avoiding undergarments with tight elastic can help improve postpartum discomfort by reducing the pressure on the abdomen.
  • Ice/Heat Treatments: Applying ice and/or heat to the affected area can help alleviate pain and swelling.
  • Rest: Making sure to get adequate rest is important to help the body recover.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Postpartum pain is usually mild and manageable, but if it is persistent or worsening, it is important to seek medical attention. Contact your doctor or midwife if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Persistent or worsening pain that is not accompanied by sufficient rest or medication.
  • Unexplained fever, chills, headaches, nausea, or vomiting following birth.
  • Sudden and/or intense pain in a specific area.
  • Pain accompanied by other symptoms, such as difficulty walking, smelling, and/or seeing.