Postpartum pain was the worst part of my labor and delivery experience. (I had a vaginal birth in a hospital. It was a 24 hour labor, and I had a small second degree vaginal tear while delivering).
One thing no one tells you about giving birth – the pain after having a baby is terrible.
For me, in the first two weeks after giving birth, I was in A LOT of pain. I felt so much pressure down there. My uterus would cramp (it felt like severe period cramps) every time I breastfeed (it was very painful). It hurt to walk around too much. My body felt heavy. Peeing was hard. I had to sleep on my side because lying on my butt hurt. New mom life was hard. I looked terrible. I felt awful.
At one point, I asked my husband, “When is this pain going to end?”
When you’re going through pain, it feels like eternity. Every woman heals differently, so no one can give you a definitive answer answer on when you will feel better. For some women, it’s only for the first few days. Others are in pain for two weeks or longer. (If you’re ever concerned about your level of pain, discuss this with your OB/GYN or healthcare provider.)
Giving birth is painful, but the after pains can be intense too.
I delivered at an amazing baby-friendly hospital (and one of the top in the nation), and I attended a Childbirth class there. During the class, I was the only one to raise my hand and ask about the pain after giving birth. The nurse teaching it blew me off and said that postpartum pain didn’t last very long. Sure, to the woman who hasn’t just delivered, a few days to a week might be nothing, but when you’re experiencing excruciating pain, the hours feel like days.
My hypnobirthing instructor had actually mentioned that postpartum pain was pretty miserable for her after she had a baby too. So I was expecting pain. It just didn’t realize how absolutely excruciating it was.
I don’t mean to scare you if you’re pregnant. But knowledge is powder. You should be aware that there is some level of discomfort involved during the postpartum period (or the fourth trimester, as some moms call it.) Your level of pain might depend on many factors, including how long your labor was, if you have other complicating health issues, your threshold of pain (i.e. your pain tolerance) and etc.
So, how do you cope with postpartum pain? How do you get relief? How do you survive those first two weeks postpartum?
Don’t try to be brave. Take all the pain medications the hospital offers you.
Once the epidural wears off and the postpartum pain begins, don’t try to be brave. Take the pain medications that the doctor prescribes you. Speak up if you’re in a lot of pain. Your doctor may adjust your pain prescriptions based on your needs.
If you’re currently dealing with postpartum pain, just try to remember that the pain won’t last forever. It will pass and get less painful as time goes on.
Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen offer great pain relief
Most hospitals will offer you ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain relief. Follow your doctor’s advice, but these two over-the-counter pain medications are safe and effective at managing pain in the first weeks after you give birth. They don’t 100% eradicate the pain, but they do help make your postpartum pain a little bit more manageable.
Ask for an Ice Pack While at the Hospital
After the epidural wears off, you’ll want to keep your vagina area nice and numb to help relieve some of your postpartum pain and discomfort. In addition to taking the pain medications that the doctor prescribes you, ask the nurse for ice packs.
The hospital has ice packs that you can put in the huge underwear/pads they give you. They are maxi pad shaped, and they feel so nice and soothing.
Once you get home, you can also use an ice pack wrapped in a clean towel. You can also use a bag of frozen veggies too. Ice helps reduce the swelling and numbs the pain.
Use Witch Hazel Pads and Lidocaine Spray
Your hospital will provide you with witch hazel pads and lidocaine spray, in addition to a squirt bottle. Use everything they give you.
You will fill the squirt bottle with warm water and squirt your womanly parts while you pee. This feels so nice and clean. Then you’ll spray lidocaine spray in that area to help numb any discomfort you may have.
Finally, tuck a cool witch hazel pad between your vagina area and the huge diaper the hospital gives you. It will be soothing and help with your postpartum discomfort.
Witch hazel will be your best friend postpartum.
Stool Softeners are a Must-Have
Every mom is terrified of that first postpartum poop. You’re uncomfortable and in pain, and you definitely don’t want to be constipated. Make sure that you stay well hydrated. Drink SO MUCH water. This helps you produce more milk (if you’re breastfeeding), and it just helps you feel better. It also helps prevent your first bowel movement from being hard.
You should also take a stool softener. Your muscles down there are sore, so anything that you can do to help relieve discomfort in your nether regions, do it. Take a stool softener!
Ask the nurses for a stool softener while you’re in the hospital, if they don’t freely give you one.
Use a Heating Pad for Those Uterine Contractions
Uterine contractions are no joke. They freaking hurt and feel like really intense menstrual cramps. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll feel the ache every single time your baby feeds. Nursing makes your uterus contract. This is a good thing, even if it doesn’t feel so great.
To relieve your postpartum cramping, use a heating pad on your stomach for relief. The heat feels so good and is so comforting. You can also use a hot water bottle if you don’t have a heating pad handy.
Keep Your Bladder Empty
Make sure that you pee often. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having a full bladder, and when you’re recovering after childbirth, you don’t want something else making you feel more miserable.
As soon as you have the urge to pee, go to the bathroom and relieve the pressure. A full bladder increases postpartum pain and discomfort. If you gotta go, go!
Pillows, Especially Donut Pillows Can be a Life Saver
If you’re having pain when you sit on your bottom, try a donut pillow. You can ask for one at the hospital, and use one when you get home. They can take pressure off your perineum and can make it more comfortable for you to sit.
When in bed, if you’re having discomfort lying flat on your back, try side laying with a pillow between your legs and behind your back. You can also use a U-shaped pregnancy pillow to see if this makes being in bed more comfortable.
Nap When the Baby Sleeps
Don’t be a martyr. There is a reason why your friends give you the advice – nap when your baby naps. You need to get your rest, so that your body can recover.
Let your partner do some of the household chores and work. Let him help! You can’t recover well if you aren’t well rested. Getting enough rest is hard enough when you’re waking up every 3 hours, so don’t miss those opportunities to sleep.
When you can, sleep!
Be Patient – The Pain Won’t Last Forever
Have patience. Your postpartum pain and discomfort won’t last forever. For most women, the most intense pain goes away after two weeks. You’ll be able to function again very soon! Just be patient with yourself and rest.
(But if you’re ever worried about your level of pain, contact your healthcare provider!)
Enjoy these first weeks with your new bundle of joy!