Most women will agree that vaginal birth was probably one of the most painful things they ever had to do. Several women report pain and discomfort after vaginal birth. An amazing secret of natural birth is that labour pains stop promptly the moment when baby is delivered.
Sadly, this is when a Caesarean section mom’s pain actually starts, and it will continue for quite a few days still.
There are many tools that you can use to help you cope in the early days. But then they need to be in your hospital bag. Below some tips to help you make sure you are prepared.
READ MORE: What to expect after giving birth
How to manage pain and discomfort after vaginal birth
After pains, also called uterine involution, occurs as the uterus contracts to return to its normal size after giving birth. It generally shrinks about 1cm, and while some mothers may not be bothered by it at all, for others it can be severe.
After-pains are often worst when mom is breastfeeding, as oxytocin is released during breastfeeding to help the milk ducts contract and the milk to squirt out. Oxytocin is also the hormone responsible for contractions during labour and birth. In this way breastfeeding actually assists with the process of involution and helps to reduce postpartum bleeding.
After-pains area also typically worse in women who have had children before, than in first-time mothers.
Try the following tips for managing after-pains:
- A heat pack placed against the abdomen can help to reduce pain
- Massage the belly with lavender or chamomile oil
- Your doctor will prescribe pain medication to use if it’s really painful.
Most women experience pain and discomfort after vaginal birth, especially in their vagina, vulva and perineal area. This is due to the stretching and possible tearing or an episiotomy that occurred during the birth process. Many women also experience a feeling of “heaviness” due to the pelvic floor being weakened and stretched.
Try these tips to manage pain after vaginal birth:
- Sitz baths – soak your perineal area in a bath of lukewarm water with a handful of course salt added. You should not add so much salt to the water that it burns any wounds. You can also add a few drops of tea tree oil or lavender oil. Don’t try to wash the area or to splash it clean, as you can loosen your stitches. Simply soak and let the salt do its thing.
- Perineal ice packs. You can buy special perineal ice packs, or make your own by filling a condom with water and freezing it. Wrap in a cloth before putting it on the perineal area to reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Padsicles – taking your maternity pads and soaking them in Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera, freezing them and using them for soothing relief from the pain. Please make sure you are not allergic to any of the products first.
- Take homoeopathic Arnica and Hypericum; you can obtain these from a homoeopath.
- Be careful to not be too busy in the first few days. Stay off your behind by lying down rather than sitting, and rest as much as you can so that the area can heal.
ALSO READ: How to write a birth plan
Pain after Caesarean section
Many moms who gave vaginal birth and had a Caesar will actually label the latter as more painful. The really challenging part is that you now have pain in discomfort in a time when you want to care for your baby and get breastfeeding established.
Try these tips top cope with pain after birth:
- Make sure that you plan to have some help and support at home to give a hand where needed
- Pack slippers with a slight heel as it will be easier to walk around with
- Stay ahead of the pain – be sure to take your pain medication when due, even if the pain is not that bad at that moment.
When to see your doctor
- Pain that is severe or that worsens instead of improving
- Any bad-smelling vaginal discharge
- Fever and feeling sick
- Excessively heavy vaginal bleeding
- If you are unable to pass urine
- If you are constipated, as you may need medication to assist you with passing stools in the early days
- If you have pain in your leg or shortness of breath, as there are a bigger risk of blood clots at this time