For a majority of your life, you’ve anticipated cramps. Menstrual cycle cramps you learned about in junior high health class and have experienced for years. In pregnancy, you’re prepared to have braxton hicks cramps and eventually the labor pains. Now that the baby is here, are you in the clear? Cramping after birth can be surprising.
One thing you may not know is that afterbirth cramps are also normal. If you’re like most women you’re wondering “why didn’t anyone tell me I’d have cramps after giving birth!” Whether you’re currently pregnant or finding this article because you’re experiencing afterbirth pains, I’m here to say yes, it sucks and yes, it will get better!
(Skip to the end if you’re just wondering what you can do to ease this pain!)
You can also listen to me open up about all things postpartum with Mama J on this episode of “January’s Podcast”
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Why Do I Still Have Cramping After Birth?
Cramps after giving birth are called involution. This is the process of your uterus returning to normal size and is often marked by short, sharp pains. Throughout your pregnancy, your uterus grows around 25X its’ normal size. These cramps after giving birth are helping the uterus to shrink back down. While the process usually takes around 6 weeks, you likely won’t feel these pains for that long. As the days pass, the cramping will reduce and then subside.
Related: Delivering the Placenta
Why Do I Cramp More When Breastfeeding?
Involution (uterine cramps) are caused by the release of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is released during breastfeeding which means the cramping is likely stronger during a nursing session. When you start breastfeeding, the oxytocin is released which triggers the uterine cramping. It’s definitely amazing how our bodies work like that (but that doesn’t make the pain any more enjoyable!)
The Cramping Is Usually Worse in Subsequent Pregnancies
Some of my clients shared that they didn’t notice these cramps much with their first, but they were surprised how strong they were with their second or third child (or beyond!) Most people agree that the afterbirth cramping increases with each postpartum and this is thought to be because of the uterine muscle tone. After the first, the uterine muscles are likely still strong and able to contract more efficiently. In each subsequent postpartum, it takes more effort for the uterine muscles to contract and, therefore, you may have more noticeable cramping.
How Do I Get Rid of Cramping After Birth?!
I wish I could tell you there is a magic pill you could take while doing a magic yoga move and chanting a magic phrase. If I told you that, though, I’d be lying.
When it comes to afterbirth cramping, there are ways to alleviate the pain, though.
–Pain Relievers (Medicine): Whether you’re at the hospital or at home, you likely have access to OTC pain relief. Check with your provider on dosage if you are breastfeeding.
After Ease (Liquid Drops): If you prefer to avoid medication but still want relief, try a liquid drop like After Ease. After ease can be added to your water and is created for postpartum moms to find relief from cramping
Heating Pad: Whether it’s the break and heat pad from the hospital, a favorite heating pad from home, or a homemade rice sock, finding a way to put heat on the painful area can help minimize the pain you’re experiencing
Deep breathing: Remember that breathing practice you did for birth? It can come in handy again as you breathe through the cramping afterpains. Purposeful, focused breathing!
Pee/empty bladder: Don’t avoid urinating!
RELATED: The First Pee After Birth
Belly binding: Belly Binding is a technique that includes wrapping the abdomen with cloth to provide support for healing. Some believe this helps the uterus contract and the pressure can be helpful in alleviating afterbirth pains
No Part of Postpartum Needs to Be Taboo: Even Cramping After Birth
If no one told you about after birth cramping, it can be shocking to realize that even after birth you may still feel contractions. Here at Postpartum Together we believe that NO PART of postpartum should be taboo and we are here to talk about it!
Want a safe space to talk about ALL THE THINGS life after baby? Need a judgement free community? Do you want to learn about the changes that have happened in you- mentally, physically, relationally, identity and more?
Postpartum Together has a number of small groups to help you navigate your transitions after birth. Get the details and secure your spot here.