Postpartum cramps is the pain in your lower belly as uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size after your baby’s birth. Another name for these cramps is Afterbirth pains.
Some cramping after birth is normal and it’s usually mild for first-time moms (if you feel them at all). But the cramps often get worse with each future delivery, and may be most uncomfortable after the second and third babies.
Postpartum cramps may begin immediately after you give birth to your baby. They tend to peak in their intensity on days 2 and 3 after birth. Then they continue for the first week to 10 days after delivery, or until your uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size.
Cesarean section discomfort is also more likely in the first few days after delivery. However, you’ll still likely experience general afterpains, which follow the timeline above.
It’s normal to experience cramping in your lower abdomen after you give birth. After all, your uterus grows to many times its original size throughout pregnancy — all while its lining thickens and its blood vessels enlarge to support the placenta and your baby.
When your baby is born, your body begins the process of getting back to its starting point.
The most common reason you have cramping after your baby is born is that your uterus contracts to shrink back down to its original size.The repeated squeezing and relaxing in your uterus muscle wall compresses the blood vessels. The narrowed blood vessels prevent you from losing too much blood at the site where the placenta was once attached to your uterus (postpartum hemorrhage). Over the next several hours and days, your uterus continues to contract and decrease in size. It weighs less and takes up less space in your pelvic cavity as each day passes.
The lining of your uterus (endometrium) regenerates, or builds back up, too.
The contractions are like mini versions of labor contractions and they’re sometimes called “afterpains” because, well, you get these pains after you deliver your little one.
Postpartum cramps may feel a lot like menstrual cramps — from mild to possibly severe at times — and they tend to be more noticeable with second or third pregnancies.
Afterpains are generally most uncomfortable in the first few days after delivery. They tend to fade away after that, but you may find they’re more noticeable when you’re breastfeeding.
• Cesarean delivery
Afterpains don’t only affect people who give birth vaginally. Your uterus also contracts this way after you have a C-section. So, the same process apply to the uterus and its need to return to its pre-pregnancy size. You may feel cramping and soreness as your incision and the surrounding tissues heal.
You’ll likely have your first postpartum bowel movement within a few days of delivery. But you can also develop constipation, which may be caused by high progesterone levels in pregnancy, your diet (for example, low fiber intake), and lowered activity levels. Constipation comes with cramping — and you may also just feel backed up or have some bloating and pressure.
• Infections and more
While less common, it’s possible to develop infections after giving birth. Some types of infections are more likely to develop than others.
Possibilities include things such as –
▪︎ Endometritis is inflammation of the uterine lining caused by infection. Other symptoms include fever, constipation, unusual vaginal discharge, and pelvic pain.
▪︎ Bacterial vaginosis is an infection caused by too much bad bacteria in the uterus. Other symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating, foul-smelling discharge, and itching/pain in the vulva.
• Urinary tract infection (UTI) impacts the ureters, bladder, urethra, and kidneys. Other symptoms include fever, painful or frequent urination, urgency to urinate, cloudy/bloody urine, and pelvic pain.
Self-care Tips for postpartum cramps –
Here are a few other tips you can try to minimize your discomfort –
• Practice deep breathing or other relaxation techniques to distract you from the pain.
• Try to pee often, even if you don’t feel the urge to go. A full bladder prevents the uterus from fully contracting and intensifies cramping. Immediately postpartum, your sensation of bladder fullness may be disrupted, so taking regular trips to the bathroom no matter what, will help ease cramping.
• Breastfeed every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night. This will not only help your milk supply, but will also help minimize your blood loss by encouraging contractions and helping the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size.
• Lie face down with a pillow or warm heating pad under your lower belly.
• Gently massage your lower belly.
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