This is an interesting case of a client I treated before the birth of her third child to help manage her severe afterpains. Women are aware of labour pain but less is said about afterpains which can be debilitating.
After the births of her first two children, Lucy experienced terrifyingly painful afterpains. The uterus causes these as it contracts to its pre-pregnancy size and location. Lucy described them as “unbearable”and much worse than the actual labour pains, even though both births were difficult and for the first forceps were required. The release of the hormone oxytocin while breast feeding makes the pains much worse as it causes more contractions and Lucy described how she would “scream while breast feeding”.
Afterpains often get worse with successive pregnancies as uterine muscle tone is poorer, so instead of contracting and staying contracted, it intermittently contracts and relaxes. Lucy knew this and was very anxious to try and ensure she wouldn’t have to endure such pain again. We started working at 24 weeks. According to Chinese Medicine she was “Blood” deficient and this meant the contractions weren’t controlled and that she would feel the pain more. She also had another pathology of “Damp” which blocks the flow of energy, so likely to increase her pain further.
The approach was for her to receive acupuncture every couple of weeks until nearer the birth and for her to make dietary changes. Lucy had already made changes to her diet from a Western perspective and this coincidently mirrored the requirements of “blood” nourishment from the Chinese Medicine view and so it was a matter of reinforcing her good intentions. A subsequent blood test confirmed she was iron deficient, though she refused to take iron supplements and doubled her efforts to eat more “blood nourishing foods”. A later test confirmed her iron levels were normal. Lucy also excluded many “damp” engendering foods too in accordance with Chinese Medicine. At 37 weeks we began weekly treatments to prepare her for birth and her baby girl was born on her due date (we’d done 7 sessions in total). I’d given her some press-on-needles, advice on using acupressure and other homecare advice to help her manage the afterpains. We had discussed acupuncture treatment if required. She happily reported that her afterpains were “so much more manageable and less debilitating than the previous two births and almost gone in a week. Big improvement”. No further acupuncture sessions were required.