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Pain after Childbirth: What Is Normal and What Isn't?

Learn how to distinguish which pains after childbirth are normal, and which need medical attention.
A woman in the fetal position with stomach pain.

Pain after childbirth, although common, can be an unpleasant surprise for the new mother. Such pains can be as intense and as severe as labor pains. This pain can last for as long as three months after childbirth. They are due to strained tissues and can affect the breasts, the vagina, the lower abdominal, the stomach, the back and the pelvic area.


Afterpains or afterbirth pains are cramp-like in nature and caused by post partum contractions of the uterus. Involution or contraction of the uterus starts immediately after childbirth and can continue for a period of six weeks until the uterus is restored to its original size and location. Oxytocin, the hormone responsible for involution, is released in larger amounts immediately after delivery and the pain is most intense then. Breast feeding also triggers the release of this hormone.

Hence, afterpain is likely to be experienced during nursing. It's important to urinate at regular intervals to ensure appropriate contraction of the uterus as prevention of uterine contractions; a full bladder can trigger afterpains. Afterpains are normal and signal the return of the body to its pre-pregnancy condition.

Achy Muscles

The processes of labor and delivery put a lot of strain on abdominal and pelvic muscles. These muscles need a few days to recover from childbirth. The pain experienced is normal and can be eased with the administration of painkillers and plenty of rest.


Most new mothers find it difficult to defecate the first few times after delivery. This is because the muscles of the rectum are tired. Hormones that trigger labor can also cause constipation as can iron supplements. Constipation can be compounded by the use of anesthesia during childbirth. A diet that is rich in fiber and plenty of fluids can ease constipation.


The perineum (area between the vagina and the anus) can tear or may need to be cut during a normal delivery. Stitches applied to repair the tear can cause pain in the vaginal area that's heightened while sitting, walking, coughing or sneezing. This pain can last for a longer period of time if the stitches are internal.

Sore Breasts

Breast can be engorged and painful due to the milk they contain after childbirth and nipples can be sore due to the baby's suckling. Such discomfort is normal and experienced by most women after childbirth.


Most women suffer from swollen anal tissues (hemorrhoids) as a result of the strain of labor.

Back Pain

The expansion of the uterus during pregnancy and excess weight can put a strain on the back. A prolonged labor and incorrect posture during nursing can aggravate this pain. Back pain is normal for a couple of months after delivery.

Pain Caused by Infections

Infections due to cesarean surgery, obstetrical tools or catheters can cause pain in the pelvic area. Antibiotics are essential to treat such infections. Such pain is not normal and care should be taken to prevent all kinds of infection.

Any pain that worsens or persists beyond three months requires the attention of a health provider to rule out any complications.

If you have additional questions about pain after childbirth, please feel free to visit for more information.

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