Useful information on why many women experience cramp like pains after giving birth and suggestions as to how long will they last.
After giving birth you may experience cramp like pains. Known as afterbirth pains or simply afterpains, these cramps are caused by postpartum contractions of your uterus as it shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size and location. This process, called involution, begins immediately after birth and takes four to six weeks to complete.
Your uterus will contract more efficiently after the birth of your first baby. Because your uterus looses muscle tone during subsequent pregnancies it has to contract, relax, and contract again to return to its pre-pregnancy state. It is this sequential contraction, relaxation, and contraction of the uterus that causes the afterbirth pains.
Breastfeeding also brings on the pain because your baby's sucking releases a uterine-contraction-stimulating hormone called oxytocin, which speeds up the process of involution.
The cramping will be most intense during the first 24 to 48 hours after giving birth, and the discomfort should taper off within two to three days.
Try to urinate as often as you can. A full bladder displaces the uterus so it can't contract as well as it should. This can cause more afterpains and increased bleeding.
Some women find it helpful to lie on their stomachs with a pillow under the lower abdomen. Gentle massage of the lower abdomen can also help the uterus contract.
Many hospitals will give you painkillers to cope with the aches and pains that immediately follow childbirth. Your doctor can also prescribe painkillers for you to take at home. If the cramping hasn't started to taper off after one week or the pain becomes unbearable, notify your doctor. It could be a sign of an infection.
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