Is it common to suffer abdominal pain (and stomach pain) after pregnancy?
There are lots going on inside your amazing body after birthing new life into the world and delivering a baby. You have grown a full-term human inside your abdomen, after all. But, as women, we often don’t give ourselves enough credit for the magnitude of the achievement and the physical challenge of it all. Plus, we think we’re failing if we don’t spring back to normal right away.
Aches and pain, niggles, and after-effects are all par for the course after childbirth. They occur as your uterus shrinks back to its standard size and your other organs have space to stretch out and breathe again – (instead of being jammed up into your throat by your baby).
But what’s normal and what’s not? Because while it’s true that you shouldn’t worry about every minor symptom (because there’s likely to be something new every day for at least the first six weeks). It is essential to monitor how you’re feeling. Report severe pain or symptoms that don’t go away within a couple of days to a week to your OBGYN to be on the safe side.
Before we go any further, remember there is no such thing as normal – every woman and every pregnancy is different. There are no prizes for pretending that everything is OK either. Any woman who says they sailed through childbirth, labor, and the postpartum period without any problems is probably lying. It takes more courage and strength to admit that you’re struggling and to seek help. If you have stomach pain or any other painful issues after pregnancy, we’re here to help – with care and compassion and zero judgment.
It’s common for women to have a multitude of different abdominal pains during pregnancy, from the baby kicking the inside of your ribs to the familiar burning sensation of heartburn and indigestion because of a combination of increased hormones or the baby’s physical position interferes with your normal digestive process.
But what about after pregnancy? Is stomach pain and abdominal pain normal in the postpartum period? Let’s dig a little deeper.
We tend to use the term port-Partum loosely. Likewise, calling (blaming) everything after delivering your child PP: “postpartum.” But the actual postpartum period only actually refers to the first six weeks.
Apart from a sore vagina – that has been stretched to the size of a watermelon. A vulva that has been torn apart and stitched back together again with a needle and thread, the main symptoms during the postpartum period are fatigue and exhaustion. You feel especially tired during this period for two reasons.
Firstly, your body is recovering and healing from birth. This tiredness could be more severe if you had a traumatic birth, surgery, or a C-section. Secondly, you’re likely to be sleep-deprived at this time. This lack of sleep is because your baby will be waking up to feed or need their diaper changing at various points throughout the night.
But what about stomach/abdominal? Is this pain normal after childbirth?
What Causes Post-Partum Stomach and Abdominal Pain?
Stomach pain and abdominal pain expected in the first six weeks after labor and childbirth, and it is most likely caused by what we call “afterpains.” These cramp-like pains are like the regular period pains that you experience the week before you begin bleeding on Day 1 of your cycle.
However, afterpains can be slightly more intense. The afterpain cramps are caused by your womb and the surrounding connective tissue and ligaments shrinking back down to their pre-pregnancy size. They’re pretty standard. They’re usually at the most painful in the first week after delivery. Still, it can take up to six weeks for everything to return to baseline and the pains to dissipate.
If you’re breastfeeding, you will feel afterpains even more intensely while your baby is feeding. This increase in pain is due to the hormones that signal your uterus to shrink back down to normal. Interestingly, first-time Moms feel these pains less than women who have given birth before due to them having more muscle tone.
So, if you’re planning more children and want to avoid afterpains, pre-natal Pilates classes and pre-natal physical therapy sessions can help help you maintain muscle tone and keep your core muscles strong between pregnancies.
Afterpains are treated in the same way as menstrual cramps – with heat therapy: either a hot bath, shower, heat pack, or hot water bottle. If the pains are severe, you can take Advil or other anti-inflammatories, but check with your doctor first.
If it’s not afterpains, then the second most common cause of stomach pain in the first six weeks after childbirth is constipation. Constipation is prevalent in the postpartum period, even if you’ve never experienced it before and your bowels have never presented a problem before. There are many reasons for this, including anesthetic, painkillers, and medication used during and after childbirth, stress, hormones, piles (hemorrhoids), or pain from an episiotomy or vaginal tears. Postpartum constipation usually clears up on its own without treatment.
Still, there are things you can do to improve the symptoms. Try to increase your fiber intake by eating more fruit and vegetables and drink more water. Keeping your body moving will also help keep your bowels moving. Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine after childbirth. Still, a simple daily walk with your baby should be enough to get things going. If pain is causing your constipation, try putting a cold pack on the painful area.
This cause doesn’t apply if you had a vaginal birth. But if you had an elected C-section or an emergency C-section. In that case, your stomach/abdominal pain could be caused by the cesarean section. You’re most likely to feel pain around the incision site as the wound heals and the internal tissue heals and repairs. Remember to keep the area clean to reduce the risk of infection. Pain can worsen with activity. So it’s essential to take it easy after a C-section. Take lots of rest and spend time with your baby – avoiding heavy lifting or vigorous exercise.
Other Causes Of Stomach And Abdominal Pain After Pregnancy
The above list is the most common cause of stomach and abdominal pain after pregnancy. But there are other less common reasons why you might be experiencing pain in your stomach after having a baby.
Unfortunately, without the proper support, women can endure many years of pain and discomfort in stomach pain, abdominal pain, back pain, or pelvic pain. They mistakenly believe that that’s how it is and that it’s something they must put endure. We see women in our clinic who are still suffering the after-effects of pregnancy decades after they gave birth because they didn’t seek support at the time. But any pain or discomfort is a sign that something isn’t right, regardless of whether you’ve had a baby or not.
In most cases, physical therapy and therapeutic exercises can resolve most types of post-pregnancy pain and discomfort or, at the very least, reduce the symptoms and severity. So, don’t put off seeking support.
We help you live free from stomach pain and abdominal pain to enjoy the life you deserve.
It’s crucial to find the root cause of your stomach pain – and that’s what we specialize in at our clinic in Falls Church, VA. Then, you can treat the symptoms properly when you find the true source of the pain. Our specialist women’s health and pelvic health physical therapists help women feel whole again after childbirth. So you can concentrate on your baby instead of the symptoms of post-pregnancy stomach pain, abdominal pain, back pain, or pelvic pain.
We also treat urinary stress incontinence, pelvic organ prolapses, fecal incontinence, loss of libido, and painful sex.
You don’t have to put up with Mommy Belly either. If you feel separation in what used to be your abdominal muscles, and they form a dome shape when you try to strengthen them with ab exercises, you might have diastasis recti caused by pregnancy-related damage to the stretched tissues in the center of your abs. You can resolve this issue with physical therapy and specific exercises without resorting to dangerous plastic surgery or a tummy tuck.
To book a free appointment with a specialist – via telephone or in-person, to talk about your post-pregnancy issues and how we can help, please complete the form to request an appointment.
When Stomach/AbdominalPain After Pregnancy Isn’t Normal
If your stomach pain or abdominal pain is severe, lasts longer than the first six weeks, or doesn’t get better with rest, heat therapy, and over-the-counter medications, it’s essential to get checked over by your doctor. And please seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sickness and vomiting
- Bright red, heavy vaginal bleeding
- Chest pain or breathlessness
- Pain, redness, and inflammation around C-Section or Episiotomy scar
- Unusual discharge from your vagina or rectum
Don’t feel embarrassed or panicked about speaking with me in regards to your stomach/abdominal pain after pregnancy. I’m here to help get you back to health. I’m not here to judge or pass comment.
I’ve been in your shoes and understand exactly how you feel. Get in touch with me anytime through my contact page. Let’s get you back on your feet.