Do All Women Have Contractions After Childbirth?

Although it's impossible to prevent contractions after childbirth, there are certain tips that can help relieve the discomfort caused by them.
Do All Women Have Contractions After Childbirth?

Last update: 08 November, 2018

During postpartum recovery, a woman’s body experiences new anatomical, physiological and hormonal changes. An important change that occurs during this stage is the involution of the uterus and it can cause contractions after childbirth.

In this article we’ll discuss what these contractions are, how they’re produced and the role they play in a woman’s body.

What causes contractions after childbirth?

In the nine months of pregnancy, a woman’s uterus expands to allow for the growth of the fetus. When the baby is born, the uterus begins to experience a natural involution process.

Little by little, the uterus progressively contracts until it returns to the size that it had before pregnancy.

During this period, women may experience contractions similar to those experienced 24 to 48 hours before giving birth. In most cases, these contractions are concentrated in the lower part of the belly. However, they can sometimes spread towards the back.

Since the involution process lasts for between four to six weeks, women may feel contractions during this entire space of time. Contractions are most intense during the first days after childbirth. However, the intensity slowly decreases over time.

Are contractions after childbirth a cause for concern?

Contractions after childbirth are a natural phenomenon and they’re a sign of a woman’s recovery.

Contractions facilitate the involution of the uterus. They also help to detach the remains of the placenta from the uterine wall and to seal off the blood vessels that remained open after childbirth.

woman having contractions

If these contractions don’t occur, the uterus wouldn’t be able to return to its original size after childbirth. In addition, after the placenta is detached, there are several arteries that remain exposed. This can represent a serious risk of hemorrhage.

Without these contractions, fragments of the placenta could remain in the uterus and this could facilitate the development of infections.

Contractions can cause a lot of pain. However, it’s important to consult a doctor rather than self-medicating.

Doctors are responsible for analyzing the process of postpartum recovery. They’ll indicate palliative treatment to relieve pain if they find it necessary.

Do all women have contractions after delivery?

The answer is yes. However, these contractions are usually less frequent and less intense when it comes to first-time mothers.

It’s believed that only 5% of first-time mothers suffer from painful contractions. 50% feel strong contractions after giving birth to their second child and 80% do so after giving birth to their third child.

The process of uterine involution is more painful when there has been a previous birth, since stronger contractions are required to return the uterus to its original size.

First-time mothers have rigid uterine fibers, which is why their involution is simpler and less painful.

“It’s believed that only 5% of first-time mothers suffer from painful contractions. 50% feel strong contractions after giving birth to their second child and 80% do so after giving birth to their third child.”

How frequently do these contractions occur?

These contractions are automatic and they derive from involuntary movements of the uterine musculature. It’s best to know exactly when and how often they occur.

Suction of the nipples during breastfeeding accentuates postpartum contractions. When mothers breastfeed, their bodies release a hormone known as oxytocin.

This hormone stimulates the contraction of the uterus’s muscle fibers. As a consequence, contractions tend to be stronger and more sustained when breastfeeding.

According to experts, breast stimulation during lactation is highly beneficial for postpartum recovery.

The release of oxytocin accelerates uterine involution and the sealing of blood vessels that remain open after the detachment of the placenta. This significantly reduces the risk of internal bleeding.

Tired woman

Can postpartum contractions be prevented?

We cannot prevent contractions after childbirth since they’re part of a natural process. However, strategic exercises can be used to make postpartum contractions less painful, especially when it comes to second-time mothers.

The ideal exercises for pregnant women are low-impact aerobics and those that allow for the strengthening of muscles. Walks are beneficial for weight management, endurance and muscle tone development.

In addition, Pilates and yoga can help strengthen the uterine muscles, improve flexibility and regulate the cardio-respiratory rhythm. It’s important to consult your doctor before starting any physical activities.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Acién P. Tratado de Obstetricia. Ediciones Molloy, Alicante, 1998; 15:329-343, 38:977-987.
  • Barakat, R. Ejercicio físico durante el embarazo. Programas de actividad física en gestantes. Revista de educación físicaViref.
  • Moldenhauer, J. Introducción al puerperio (periodo posparto). Manual MSD- Versión para público general. [En línea].
  • Willians CE, 20ª edición. Anormalidades del puerperio. 1998. 499-510.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.