After pains are typically mild for first-time mums (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. However, it can take several weeks for your uterus to return to normal size.
Breastfeeding can bring on involution pain 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.)
Immediately after the delivery, the fundus (top portion of the uterus) should be felt at the level of your belly button or lower. You can attempt to feel your fundus by gently pressing on your abdomen. The uterus shrinks at one
centimetre a day. Usually, by 6 weeks, it returns to pre-pregnancy size.
How can I relieve afterpains?
Here are a few tips to minimize your discomfort:
- 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.
- Lie facedown with a pillow under your lower belly.
- Lie facedown with a warm heating pad under your lower belly.
- Gently massage your lower belly.
- Consider taking ibuprofen or Paracetamol if required. Let your provider know if it doesn’t give you relief – she may recommend (or prescribe) another medication.