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Postpartum: Cramps (afterpains)

By Kate Marple | 10 November 2020 | 0 Comments
Why am I having painful cramps after delivery?
The cramps known as afterbirth pains, or simply afterpains, are caused by contractions of your uterus as it returns to its pre-pregnancy size after you have your baby. (This process is called "involution.")
Afterpains are typically mild for first-time moms (if you feel them at all) and don't last long. But they can be quite uncomfortable after a second delivery and usually get worse with each successive delivery. That's because first-time mothers tend to have better uterine muscle tone, which means the uterus can contract and stay contracted, rather than relaxing and contracting intermittently.
Cramping will be most intense for the first day or two after giving birth, but it should taper off around the third day. (Though it can take six weeks or longer for your uterus to return to normal size.)
Breastfeeding can bring on afterpains or make them more intense because your baby's sucking triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which in turn causes contractions. (This is actually a good thing: The cramps brought on by breastfeeding help your uterus shrink to normal size more quickly, reducing your risk of postpartum anemia from blood loss.)

How can I relieve afterpains?
Here are a few tips to minimize your discomfort:
1. Try to pee often, even if you don't feel the urge to go. A full bladder displaces the uterus so it can't contract completely.

2. Lie face down with a pillow under your lower belly.
3. Lie face down with a warm heating pad under your lower belly.
4. Gently massage your lower belly.
5. Take ibuprofen. Let your provider know if it doesn't give you relief - she may recommend or prescribe another medication.

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