How to manage pain and discomfort after vaginal birth

How to manage pain and discomfort after vaginal birth

Most women will agree that vaginal birth was probably one of the most challenging things they ever had to do. Several women report pain and discomfort after vaginal birth. An amazing secret of natural birth is that labour pains stop the promptly the moment when baby is delivered.

Sadly, this is when a Caesarean section mom’s pain actually starts, and it will continue for quite a few days still.

However, the days following vaginal delivery won’t be completely without pain. Two challenges to cope with specifically are after-pains and perineal pain and swelling.

How to manage pain and discomfort after vaginal birth


After pains, also called uterine involution occurs as the uterus contracts to return to its normal size after giving birth. It generally shrinks about 1cm, and while some mothers may not be bothered by it at all, for others it can be severe.

After-pains are often worst when mom is breastfeeding, this as oxytocin is released during breastfeeding to help the milk ducts contract and the milk to squirt out. Oxytocin is also the hormone responsible for contractions during labour and birth. In this way breastfeeding actually assists with the process of involution and helps to reduce postpartum bleeding.

After-pains area also typically worse in women who have had children before, than in first-time mothers.

READ MORE: Things to do before getting pregnant

Try the following tips for managing after-pains:

  • A heat pack placed against the abdomen can help to reduce pain
  • Massage the belly with lavender or chamomile oil
  • Your doctor will prescribe pain medication to use if it’s really painful.

Perineal care

Most women experience pain and discomfort after vaginal birth, especially in their vagina, vulva and perineal area.  This is due to the stretching and possible tearing or an episiotomy that occurred during the birth process. Many women also experience a feeling of “heaviness” due to the pelvic floor being weakened and stretched.

Try these tips to manage pain after vaginal birth:

  • Sitz baths – soak your perineal area in a bath of lukewarm water with a handful of course salt added. You should not add so much salt to the water that it burns any wounds. You can also add a few drops of tea tree oil or lavender oil. Don’t try to wash the area or to splash it clean, as you can loosen your stitches. Simply soak and let the salt do its thing.
  • Perineal ice packs. You can buy special perineal ice packs, or make your own by filling a condom with water and freezing it. Wrap in a cloth before putting it on the perineal area to reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • Padsicles – taking your maternity pads and soaking them in Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera, freezing them and using them for soothing relief from the pain. Please make sure you are not allergic to any of the products first.
  • Be careful to not be too busy in the first few days. Stay off your behind by lying down rather than sitting, and rest as much as you can so that the area can heal.

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When to see your doctor

  • Pain that is severe or that worsens instead of improving
  • Any bad smelling vaginal discharge
  • Fever and feeling sick
  • Excessively heavy vaginal bleeding
  • If you are unable to pass urine
  • If you are constipated, as you may need medication to assist you with passing stools in the early days
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Christine Klynhans is a midwife and lactation consultant with a firm believe that gentle parenting can change the world. She has worked in midwifery since competing her B.Cur nursing degree in 2004, and has a special passion for education and for writing. She currently works in a well-baby clinic and give antenatal classes and breastfeeding support. She enjoys working with parents of babies and toddlers, aiming to help them find gentle solutions to their parenting problems and assisting them in incorporating healthy habits and natural health alternatives into their daily lives.

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