Giving birth is a beautiful and transformative experience, but it can also come with its fair share of challenges. One of the most significant hurdles that new mothers face is postpartum pain, which can range from mild discomfort to debilitating agony. This pain can occur in several areas of the body, including the abdomen, perineum, and breasts, and can be caused by a range of factors, including vaginal tearing, cesarean section incisions, engorgement, and more. For obvious reasons, the levels of pain may change from person to person, and circumstances. For example, you’ll experience different recovery from a minor tear during vaginal delivery, an episiotomy, or a more severe tear (such as grade three or four perineal tear).
Understanding the common causes of postpartum pain and how to mitigate it can make a world of difference in a new mother’s recovery experience, helping her feel more comfortable, confident, and capable as she transitions into motherhood.
Before delivery: Preparation for pain management
Managing postpartum pain begins before the delivery of the baby. By taking steps to prepare your body and mind for the experience, you can help minimize discomfort and speed up your recovery process. Here are some tips to prepare for pain management before delivery:
Attend a birth preparation class: A birth preparation class can help you understand what to expect during labor and delivery, as well as equip you with pain-management tools such as breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, and massage. Birth preparation classes are in-person or online.
Explore pain-management options: Speak to your healthcare provider about the various pain-management choices available to you during labor and delivery, such as epidurals, nitrous oxide, and IV medications. Knowing what’s available and what you’re comfortable with can help you make informed decisions in your birth plan, or when the time comes.
Practice perineal massage: Perineal massage, which involves gently massaging the perineum to help stretch the tissues in preparation for delivery, can help reduce the risk of tearing and episiotomies during delivery. It is recommended to start perineal massage around the 35th week of pregnancy. You do perineal massage (also known as perineum massage) on your own or with a partner using the thumbs. Or you can use a perineal massage tool such as the Perimom Perineal Massager. Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on how to do this correctly.
Consider a doula: A doula is a trained professional who provides physical and emotional support to women during labor and delivery. Research shows that having a doula present can reduce the need for pain medication and other interventions during delivery. A doula can help you with your breathing techniques during delivery.
Strengthen your pelvic floor: Pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, can help strengthen the muscles in the pelvic area, which can help prevent urinary incontinence and reduce the risk of tearing during delivery.
After delivery: Coping with postpartum pain
Recovering from childbirth can be a painful and uncomfortable experience, but there are steps you can take to manage postpartum pain and promote healing. Here are some tips for coping with postpartum pain:
Take pain medication as prescribed: Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help manage postpartum pain (from your stitches for instance). Be sure to follow the instructions carefully and take the medication as prescribed. If you have any concerns about your prescription, talk to your healthcare provider.
Use cold packs: Applying a cold pack to the perineal area or breasts can help reduce pain and swelling. You can use a store-bought cold pack or make your own by filling a plastic bag with crushed ice or frozen vegetables.
Practice good hygiene: Keep the perineal area clean and dry to help prevent infection and promote healing. Use a peri-bottle to cleanse the area with warm water after using the bathroom, and pat the area dry with a clean cloth or disposable pad.
Rest: Getting plenty of sleep can help your body heal and reduce pain. Try to rest whenever possible and avoid overexertion.
Use sitz baths: A sitz bath is a shallow, warm-water bath that can help soothe and heal the perineal area. You can use a sitz bath kit that fits over the toilet or a small tub filled with water.
Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet can help promote healing and reduce inflammation. Focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.
Stay hydrated: Fluids are also key to promoting healing and reducing postpartum pain. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and consider adding electrolyte-rich fluids like coconut water or sports drinks to your diet.
Practice good posture and body mechanics. When carrying your baby or performing other tasks, be sure to maintain a neutral spine and engage your core muscles. This can help reduce strain on your back and pelvis, which are common sources of postpartum pain. You can do gentle postpartum exercises, but remember to start slow.
Finally, it’s important to be patient and gentle with yourself as you recover from childbirth. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it, and be sure to communicate openly with your healthcare provider about any concerns or questions you may have. By taking care of yourself and seeking support when necessary, you can help prevent and manage postpartum pain and enjoy a smoother recovery after childbirth.
Postpartum pain is a common experience; many women face physical pain after giving birth. Stay light on your feet, since strategies for reducing postpartum pain should be taken on a case-by-case basis. The time-honored tips above should help you prepare for and manage this pain. By planning ahead for pain-management options, staying informed about the recovery process, and practicing self-care strategies, you can make your postpartum recovery as comfortable as possible.
Remember to also seek support from your healthcare provider and loved ones during this time.