Monday, July 16, 2012

Braxton Hicks and Afterpains

When I was pregnant with Margaret, I remember having Braxton Hicks contractions during the last few months. They were painless and I'd only notice them if I happened to touch my belly and realize that it was hard as a rock. I then went on to have a long labor with Margaret (44 hours) and pretty rough afterpains for 2-3 days.


I've always felt that those afterpains were a direct result of the long labor. "They" say that for the first child, you don't normally feel afterpains, but that they do get subsequently harder each child. I figured I was "lucky" enough to have hard afterpains after the first because the labor was long and after two days of my uterus working hard, my uterus was fatigued and my afterpains were amplified by muscle soreness.

With Isaac I started noticing Braxton Hicks pretty early- about 15 weeks? Maybe a little earlier. They felt like dull period cramps. I didn't really get back into shape between Margaret and Isaac, so I assumed that feeling the Braxton Hicks contractions was leftover uterus weariness. It's not like you can really "work out" your uterus between pregnancies anyway. Not consciously, at least. By the end of my pregnancy with Isaac, I remember having regular Braxton Hicks- even 5 minutes apart, almost labor-like, if I sat in certain positions. I remember one 2-hour car ride that was just miserable. I wasn't in labor but they were very regular and painful. I just attributed those rough Braxton Hicks to a tired uterus from my first pregnancy. I also decided that if Braxton Hicks were bad while riding in a car, labor contractions would really suck and that if I could avoid needing to drive or ride in a car during labor, I would.

Then my afterpains... Oh dear. They lasted for a while, at least 5 days. My labor with Isaac wasn't long (5 and a half hours), but it was intense. Again, I figured my lack of getting back into shape and my first hard labor was contributing to my tired uterus.

This time around I started feeling Braxton Hicks at 7 weeks. They aren't painful (yet), but I definitely notice them. I did get back into shape, so I was hoping the aches and pains of pregnancy would hold off, but I guess I'm not lucky like that. 

The transition from hard afterpains with Margaret to early and more difficult Braxton Hicks with Isaac has made me think there might be a connection between feeling Braxton Hicks contractions and strong afterpains, but to my knowledge, there hasn't been any research connecting the two. I'm a sample size of 1, so my experience could be an outlier. Maybe my uterus is tired. Or maybe I'm just more aware of what it is doing. 

Has anyone felt like there's a connection? It seems to me that a tired uterus is going to lend itself to harder afterpains and more noticeable Braxton Hicks, but it's just a hypothesis. I'm a little worried about the afterpains I'm going to experience after this next baby. The only thing I can think to do for it is to drink some red raspberry leaf tea in hopes that it'll tone my uterus and help stave off the harder afterpain contractions. Or maybe I should take a birthing class to learn techniques for mitigating pain in labor and use those for my afterpains. Or just take a bunch of painkillers when the time comes.

Is there anything to do to prevent hard afterpains? Do you think a tired uterus is just going to be tired? And have you noticed a relationship between Braxton Hick and afterpains?

15 comments:

  1. i recall the afterpains being worse with my second child, but the Braxton-Hicks were far worse with the first child. i was told (by my obstetrician) that afterpains are worse with each subsequent child. the afterpains occurred exclusively during nursing and were horrible (but i still nursed for a year each time...). i hope this is not your experience!

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    1. Yeah, the afterpains were always related to nursing, but it was like being in labor all over again, every time I nursed, for days. And newborns nurse a lot. :)

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  2. I felt cramping more during my first pregnancy (terrible health) than my second (much healthier). I had after pains for both. And my period came back rather quickly, but for the first time EVER my menstrual cramps were exacerbated by nursing. I was always told after pains don't happen the first time, but both my sister and I had them. I'll have to ask her if she had the cramping during pregnancy (my husband joked that I was feeling the baby's "swimming pool" expand)

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    1. I've heard that the first period postpartum is usually the worst. I don't recall mine being particularly bad (both times mine came back at 5 and a half months). But yeah- I was like you having afterpains with each child. Postpartum recovery (afterpains, hemorrhoids, lochia) is definitely a deterrent in getting pregnant again for me, especially if it's going to get progressively worse each time.

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    2. That's the strange thing--I had two periods that were almost completely painless. It was the third that hit me like a bag of bricks with awful cramps and nursing-induced pain.

      Haven't had to deal with hemorrhoids, but the lochia is a bummer. I didn't have as much the second time--maybe my uterus is more efficient, maybe it was that I didn't lose as much blood or maybe even that I used cloth pads this time around. Too many variables to know.

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  3. I don't remember afterpains ... at least not as something I noticed ... only a little bit of mild cramping while breastfeeding for a day or two.

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  4. Maybe I'm unusual but I never really felt Braxton-Hix at all during any of the 5 pregnancies. If I put my hand on my stomach near the end sometimes I could feel it tightening but I always figured that was why I had such fast labor, because I couldn't feel the build up, suddenly I was just in hard labor and then would have the baby and hour or two later. As for afterpains, I followed the typical pattern, I hardly felt a thing with B and they got worse with each kid so for me there does not seem to be a connection between the two!

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  5. Just had baby #2 and the after pains haven't been as bad as I anticipated. I did buy After Ease tincture in preparation for after birth pain and it worked really well. That being said, I've only felt the need to take it a couple times. It's worth a try for you! :)

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  6. You could always try energy work! (I recently got certified and am reasonably priced, or I can get you the number of an excellent therapist that has helped me a LOT) :)

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  7. I had no afterpains with my first, but OH MY HECK were they bad after my second, and only when nursing. They only lasted 3 days (thank goodness) but were awful. Some things I plan to do for next time: make sure my bladder is empty pre-nursing, and using Deep Blue (a doTERRA essential oils blend that my midwife really recommends). I agree---postpartum really was scarier for me than birth---this time though I encapsulated my placenta, which made my lochia only last a week (it'd pick up again if I was overexerting myself, but then I would just rest more) and staying down flat in bed for 3 days directly postpartum and just being totally and completely lazy for the week after that. Made the biggest difference between my first and second postpartum experiences.

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  8. I was referred here, as I missed this earlier and have *cough* rather a lot of experience in this area! I had B-H/early contractions earlier and earlier each pregnancy. (Technically mine slowly dilate me, so you might not call them B-H, but they only feel like B-H). My midwife did a lot of research and the most common cause was stress causing an inflammation reaction, which triggers the chemicals causing the uterus to contract. She had me 1) eliminate and reduce stress as much as possible, 2) take Calms Forte to relax and help me sleep (before bed only), 3) take natural anti-inflammatories daily (rotating between turmeric and ginger), and 4) taking fish oil.

    As for the afterpains, a few things that worked really well on serious early contractions and afterpains as well were catnip (make tea from it) and the homeopathic After-Ease. That stuff is FANTASTIC.

    This time around, I might try energy work to help with the B-H I get, too. Might be something to try.

    -Faith

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  9. Oh, plus keeping the heating pad nearby to use when I nursed for the first two weeks, and ibuprofen for the first couple of days.

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    1. I believe I remember my midwife saying no heat pads because they can increase bleeding.

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    2. First off, I somehow missed that you're pregnant. Congrats!

      I didn't have any BH with my first, a long labor ( 33.5 hours), and don't remember any after pains. With my second, I had BH starting during the 2nd trimester sometime and constantly, a labor that was INTENSE and less than 3 hours, and Braxton hicks for nearing a week.

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  10. I had BH with all three pregnancies, earlier each time: 1st- 22 weeks, 2nd- 13 weeks, 3rd- 6 weeks. Seriously. With my first, they never hurt, that's how I knew it was labor, the contractions hurt. With my second and third, they hurt intermittently, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, sometimes not at all. But oy, the afterpains. Yep, they got worse each time. After my first birth, I remember feeling them and grimacing unhappily, but being able to talk through them. After the second, they hurt a lot more but peaked after a day or two. After the third, they were as painful as full blown labor, but instead of moving and vocalizing (my typical coping methods), I had to sit still and nurse the baby. I dreaded nursing her just because of them for the first few days. I think they peaked Day 3 and were gone by the end of the first week. I hadn't considered the two being connected, but it makes sense. My BH are similar to another commenter's, in that they dilate me slowly (starting around 34 or 35 weeks, 3cm by 37w, with my last I was 4-5cm at 40 weeks, gave birth at 41w1d.) I attribute the early dilation to why I had precipitous births with the last two (the last was 1hr 15 min). Anyway, interesting thought...

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