Afterpains: Coping With Pain And Exhaustion

19/07/2009 12:03 | Updated 22 May 2015

The other week I went out with some friends. One couple has two boys, nine and seven, the other couple has one girl who's just turned one. I had two very different, but equally interesting discussions with both of the mums.

I've only just had my second child, though my first is 12 years old. With MumOfTwo I was able to talk about birth second time round. Though she'd had two caesareans, and I'd just had a home birth, she had loads of useful information for me.

One thing I wanted to find out about from her was whether her afterpains were considerably worse with her second child. Afterpains (in case you don't know), are the pains you get a few days after birth when your uterus contracts back to its normal size, normally when you are breastfeeding.

With my first son, I hardly noticed the afterpains. This time my midwife told me to expect some pain when breastfeeding, saying, 'They may even be as painful as birth contractions.' I thought, 'Bah! They weren't that bad last time, I'll be fine.' ... I learned to always listen to my midwife. I had afterpains that were so bad that I had to breathe through them.So I asked my friend MumOfTwo about her afterpains after her second son was born. She said that she, too, had incredibly bad pains, as bad as contractions. She said one of the nurses in hospital told her that the more babies women have, the easier giving birth gets, but conversely, the more painful the afterpains get. She said that she'd had women in the hospital who were in to deliver their 7th, 8th, 9th baby which just popped out... but that those same women were in screaming pain whilst their uterus contracted back.

I, like every other pregnant woman out there, had read pretty much everything I could about pregnancy, birth and beyond, but hadn't ever read anything about just how painful the afterpains can be.

The conversation I had with MumOf One was very different. She had asked me how I was coping with the sleepless nights, specifically was I incredibly tired. I thought about it and said, 'Well, I'm a bit tired, but not any more tired than I've been for the past 12 years with NumberOneSon.' She stared at me with her mouth open. 'You mean it doesn't get any better?' 'Er... not really, no.'

I explained how when I was pregnant with my first son I had felt tiredness like I could have never imagined during the first trimester. Painful, searing tiredness that tore at the core of my being.

After he was born I was so happy and excited that I didn't feel the tiredness until the second year. My the time he was two I was completely exhausted to the point where I'd become unable to sleep. Yes, so tired I couldn't sleep...

After that, I just, somehow, was able to cope with the tiredness. it never went away, but I could handle it.

I told her that I thought there was two kinds of tiredness - physical tiredness and psychological tiredness. The former is due purely to sleep deprivation, the latter is due to the monotony. I told her that the psychological tiredness had disappeared with my older son because it was no longer, well, boring. But, I continued, the physical tiredness never goes away.

I don't think that's what she wanted to hear.

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