Postpartum uterine involution – the reduction in size of the uterus following delivery.
Immediately following the expulsion of the placenta, the uterus contracts firmly to the size of a large grapefruit, reducing its size by over one-half. Every day after giving birth, the uterus descends back to its normal size. Normally, in 10-14 days, the uterus is no longer palpable and in 4-6 weeks, it returns to its pre-pregnancy size.
Factors that delay uterine involution are prolonged labor, anesthesia, excessive pain medications, grand multiparity (having had 5 or more viable pregnancies), difficult labor, retained placental fragments, and infection. Breastfeeding can enhance involution.
After Birth Pain
After birth pain – cramplike pains due to intermittent contractions of the uterus that occur after childbirth.
After birth pain normally occurs in multiparas (women who have given birth to more than one child) than primiparas (women who have given birth to their first child). Although the uterus of the primipara usually remains consistently contracted, the lost tone of the multiparous uterus results in alternate contraction and relaxation.
First time moms may only notice a tightening or a cramping sensation. Moms who have given birth before or moms who have given birth to twins (or more) may feel sharp abdominal pains (some being as strong as labor pains). Moms who breastfeed may feel increase pain because of the release of a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin stimulates uterine contractions and releases milk when nursing. After birth pain is normally at its worse for 2-3 days following delivery.
Natural Relief for After Birth Pain
Although contractions can be uncomfortable with uterine involution, it is necessary to prevent the uterus from becoming soft (boggy). When the uterus becomes soft, postpartum hemorrhage can occur.
Apply warm heat to your stomach (or back). You can use a heating pad or make your own:
- Fill a ziploc freezer bag (microwave safe) 3/4 full with uncooked rice. Heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes on high power. Wrap a hand towel around it and apply to the affected area.
You can add one or more of the following herbs to the rice to enhance its effectiveness:
It is best to add the herbs to the rice in a sealed container and let it sit for a while before using (the longer, the better).
Drink chamomile tea. Chamomile is considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with no known adverse effects in lactation. This is a great remedy for after birth pain due to uterine involution.
Mix 1 ounce carrier oil (olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, or sweet almond oil), 5 drops lavender oil, 10 drops cypress oil, and 15 drops of peppermint oil. Gently massage a small portion over the affected area.
Add Epsom and/or sea salt with one or more of the following essential oils to warm bath water:
- clary sage
Some women find relief from after birth pain by lying on their stomach with a pillow placed under it to apply abdominal pressure or by rocking in a rocking chair.
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