Considering the amount of time we spend focusing on pain relief for labor and birth, you'd be surprised that postpartum pain is rarely adequately dealt with.
Where Pain Comes From
You might find that your whole body is sore, from laboring in different positions and pushing. This might be a shock. You assume certain parts of your body would be sore, like your bottom, but why your arms and legs? We weren't joking when we said labor was a marathon, and even a short labor can cause muscle strain and stiffness.
Sometimes your hips can really be sore as well. This can be from having your legs placed in stirrups for hours upon hours, or having your support team pull your legs in odd positions.
Your back might be sore if you had an epidural or if you had people using counter pressure from back pain in labor.
To best deal with these types of pain you can try warm showers, rice socks, massage and other techniques for comfort. Stretching and moving around after the birth can also help alleviate this pain. Your doctor or midwife might also tell you which types of medications you can take both over the counter and prescription varieties.
Okay, here's where you expect it to hurt. Chances are you're feeling a bit tender in the area from your vagina to your rectum. This whole area expanded to allow the birth of the baby and slowly goes back into shape. These tissues may be swollen and ice packs right after birth can be very beneficial. You are more likely to have pain here if you had sutures of any type, also if a vacuum extractor or forceps was used your tissues may have sustained more damage.
A sitz bath can also be beneficial. In the hospital or birth center the nurses will show you how to do this bath. Sometimes you can even get a portable one to use at home. Some companies even sell herbal sitz baths for promotion of healing and comfort.
You can also choose to place cooled TUCKS® pads on your sanitary napkin to soothe the tissues.
Medications can range from over the counter products to medications prescribed by your doctor, depending on the extent of your pain. Do not hesitate to ask if any pain medication was ordered for you.
Headaches can range from the hormone level changing type to the blinding headache from the leakage of spinal fluid, can only happen when an epidural or spinal was used for pain relief and is not extremely common.
Relaxation will help take care of the first type of headache, as can some medications. The spinal headache is usually treated by having you lay flat on your back for a few days, sometimes with caffeine and in severe cases they can do a blood patch.
A blood patch is where they draw your blood and then try to repair the leakage problem by putting that blood into the site where the fluid has come from. This technique works really well for many people, considering that this headache is usually very horribly painful.
As your milk comes in your breasts might feel full, warm and tingly. This does not hurt for everyone. For those who do experience pain, nursing is often the best relief for engorgement. If you are not planning on nursing, a tight bra and no breast stimulation is the fastest way through this period.
For nursing moms, you can also try warm packs, often baby diapers filled with hot as you can stand it water fit perfectly. Pumping should really be avoided unless the baby simply refuses to nurse. Pumping will stimulate the body to produce more milk which will only make the problem worse. By allowing the baby to nurse as s/he would like, your body will quickly regulate the amount of milk you need. Your lactation consult can help you with other remedies as well.
In the End...
Postpartum pain might take you by surprise, but postpartum doesn't have to be painful. Be vocal about what you're feeling and don't be afraid to ask for help. Pain medication is usually available, but often simple comfort measures will actually go further in making you feel better without leaving you feeling groggy at a time when you'd probably rather be starring into your new baby's eyes. Enjoy your little ones!