How to Get Relief for Postpartum Pain

Newborn baby held by mother with an IV in her arm

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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. Here are some tips for managing pain after delivery.

Postpartum Sore Muscles

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 are your arms and legs sore? 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 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.

Bottom Tenderness

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 returns to shape after birth. 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 the 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.


Your uterus contracts as it returns to its pre-pregnancy size. You may feel these contractions, called afterpains or after-birth pains, and they can be quite uncomfortable. They are usually worst in the first few days after birth, and especially during breastfeeding (because of the hormones breastfeeding releases in your body). They may last for up to six weeks.

For after-birth pain relief, you can try applying a hot water bottle or heating pad to your abdomen. You can usually also take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, but check with your doctor first, especially if you are breastfeeding.


Postpartum headaches can range from the hormone-level-changing type to a blinding headache from the leakage of spinal fluid. The latter only happens following an epidural or spinal anesthetic 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. It also sometimes treated with caffeine and, in severe cases, a blood patch.

In a blood patch, doctors draw your blood and then try to repair the leakage by putting your blood into the site where the fluid is leaking. This technique works very well for many people.

Breast Pain After Delivery

As your milk comes in your breasts might feel full, warm and tingly. This does not hurt 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 very hot water fit perfectly. Pumping should 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 they would like, your body will quickly regulate the amount of milk you need. Your lactation consultant can help you with other remedies as well.

A Word From Verywell

Postpartum pain might take you by surprise, but the postpartum period 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, and 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.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Ali UA, Norwitz ER. Vacuum-assisted vaginal deliveryRev Obstet Gynecol. 2009;2(1):5–17. PMID: 19399290

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By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.