After pains are cramps experienced by new mothers after the birth of their baby. These pains are caused by the contraction of the uterus and helps your uterus shrink back to its original size. These pains are typically mild for first time mothers but can cause severe discomfort after each successive delivery. The reason being is that first time mother’s generally have better uterine tone so the uterus will contract and stay contracted, rather than relaxing and contracting intermittently. This discomfort is usually felt within hours of giving birth and settles down within the first 48 to 72 hours. Breast feeding can cause these after pains to feel more intense, as while the baby is suckling at the breast the hormone oxytocin is released, which in turn, causes contractions. This is beneficial to the mother as the cramps brought on during breast feeding help reduce the uterine size much quicker, therefore reducing the risk of post-partum haemorrhage.
Tips to relieve after pains include:
- Pain relief
- Do not allow your bladder to become too full, as a full bladder will displace the uterus and interfere with the contractions
- Heat pack
If you do not feel any after pains there is no cause for any concern – not every mother experiences them. Whilst you are in hospital the midwives will check your fundus (top of the uterus) via abdominal palpation to ensure it is contracting normally. Contraction of the uterus can continue for a period of four to six weeks until the uterus is restored to its original size and location.
Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and respected Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. He has been practising for over three decades and during this time has delivered over 20,000 babies and still counting!