Relieving pain

You may not like the idea of taking pain-relieving drugs after surgery, especially if you plan to breast-feed. But it's important to be medicated for pain when the anesthesia wears off so that you can stay comfortable. Also, to be successful with breast-feeding, it's important to be comfortable. Comfort is especially crucial during the first several days of your recovery, when your incision is beginning to heal.

In the period immediately after your Caesarean birth, you'll likely receive pain-relieving medications called narcotics. This class of drugs includes morphine and its derivatives. These can be given through your IV or injected into a muscle, if your IV has been removed. During the first 24 hours after surgery, narcotics can also be given through an epidural catheter left in place.

Many hospitals connect a small pump to your IV so that you can self-administer small doses of narcotic when you feel you need it, simply by pressing a button. This is called patient-controlled analgesia. Because the drug goes directly into your IV, pain relief is fast. The pump has a lockout device, which limits the amount of narcotic you can receive. This prevents you from overmedicating yourself.

After a day or so, your health care provider will probably recommend that you switch to a combination of narcotic and non-narcotic pain relievers and ultimately to non-narcotic pain relievers only. Non-narcotic pain relievers include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. You can also try relaxation techniques, soft music, dim lights and simple breathing exercises to relieve pain. You can be confident that your health care provider won't recommend any medications that are inadvisable for you or your baby.

In addition to the incision pain, you may also have afterbirth pains — uterine contractions that help control bleeding. These can start anytime after surgery and can last four to five days. They may be especially noticeable when you're breast-feeding. That's because breast-feeding causes your body to produce oxytocin, which stimulates uterine contractions. To help relieve afterbirth pains, try relaxation techniques or coordinate breast-feeding with taking your pain medication.

If you're still experiencing pain when it's time for you to be discharged, your health care provider may prescribe a small supply of narcotic medication for you to take at home.

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