Childbirth education classes. Check!
Pack the hospital bags. Check!
Install the car seat. Check!
You’ve pored over books and blogs and know just what to expect during labor and birth. You’re so prepared. You’re going to rock this! Even those afterbirth pains!
Oh, yes. The pains of birth don’t end with the delivery of your baby and placenta. Once it’s done the job of propelling your baby into the world, your uterus is on a mission to shrink back down to its original size and stop the bleeding from the place where your placenta attached to its wall. This means more uterine contractions. Many care providers will also do a fundal massage, a firm massage of the top of your uterus to help it contract and firm up. This massage can be quite uncomfortable for most people, but it helps your uterus tone up and reduces postpartum bleeding.
For first-time moms, afterpains are usually pretty mild because their uteruses are well-toned; for subsequent births, afterpains get increasingly painful as it takes more time and effort for the uterus to contract and stay contracted. These pains usually only last the first few days to weeks and can often be brought on by breastfeeding (which releases oxytocin and causes your uterus contract – this is a good thing!).
What can you do to relieve these pains? Emptying your bladder regularly can help; if your bladder is full, it affects the placement of the uterus and can make it more difficult to contract. Ibuprofen is commonly prescribed for afterpains as well. As always, if you have any concerns about your pain or bleeding, give your care provider a call.