by Melanie Gray, TCM Apprentice
So, you go through labor, you have your baby, you push out the placenta, and then you think to yourself “Why on earth am I still feeling these contractions!?” Those pesky little contractions are called “after-pains” and they are very common with moms who have had children before, but they can happen to first-time moms as well. They are the result of your uterus contracting itself back down into it’s non-pregnant state. Second, third, fourth time moms tend to feel them much more often (and much worse with each subsequent pregnancy) because the uterus has stretched itself out, has lost a little bit more tone with each pregnancy, and has to work harder to shrink back down to size. Women typically feel after-pains more intensely when baby is nursing, if their bladders are full, or if they are dehydrated. There are some things women have found to be effective in soothing after-pains that are safe to use while breastfeeding.
Using a warm rice sock or a heating pad turned down on low can be really soothing.
Add a few drops of both lavender and frankincense to a warm, wet washcloth and apply it directly onto the lower abdomen.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is well known for it’s hyper-inducing effect on cats, but it actually has the opposite in humans. It helps to relieve muscle spasms, relaxes nervous tension, and acts a very good gentle and effective pain killer. The tea is great because it’s very mild tasting and can be sipped throughout the day. It can be used fresh or dried. The dried version can easily be found at Co-ops or herb stores. Use 1 teaspoon of dried or 3 teaspoons of fresh catnip per 10 oz of hot water. Let it steep for around 15 minutes. Honey or a mixture of other nice-tasting herbs can be combined with it.
Cramp Bark tincture:
Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) does exactly what the name says. It helps to cramp down the uterus and relax the smooth uterine muscles. It can also be used for painful menstrual cramps and relaxing intestinal cramps related to gas or irritable bowel syndrome. This herb is usually taken in a tincture form, as the tea is extremely bitter and horrible smelling. The tincture works best if taken right before nursing, with 30-60 drops in a small glass of juice. The tincture is also strong tasting, so taking it down in one gulp is the way to do it.
This type of remedy works best with the specific type of pain or added emotional components that are also being experienced.
-After many children, try Secale
-Feeling it more in the groin area, or it’s very intense, try Cimicifuga
-If they are long-lasting, try Secale
-If the pains are extending to the hips, buttocks, or legs, try Kali Carb
-If they are worse when the baby feeds, try Arnica, Chamomilla, Pulsatilla, or Secale
-If they are sore with a bruised feeling, try Arnica
-If there is also weepiness, try Pulsatilla
-If there are feelings of disappointment or resentment about the birth, try Staphisagria
-If they are feeling unbearable, try Chamomilla or Cimicifuga.
The good news is that the after-pains begin subside within a few days after the birth. The intensity also tends to subside from day-to-day. If all else fails, ibuprofen 600 mg every 6 hours works wonders just as well and is perfectly safe to take during breastfeeding.