When you’re planning for childbirth, it can be easy to get bogged down in the details. What hospital do you want to go to? Somewhere close or somewhere with the best reputation? Or would you rather deliver at home? What about the birth position? Kneeling, squatting, lying down, floating in water? These decisions can make an already stressful time seem overwhelming. Unfortunately, there’s one more thing that you might not have planned for but really need to take into consideration – what to do about the pain.

There are numerous body parts that might be in varying degrees of pain after childbirth, depending on the method and whether there were any complications. Cesarean births in particular can be very painful, and doctors often prescribe opioids to deal with that pain. Opioid painkillers are, as we all know thanks to the ongoing epidemic, highly addictive. For many women, childbirth might be their first exposure to them, and it could also be all it takes to form an addiction. Experts say that opioid dependence can develop in a matter of days, and if you’ve had a cesarean section, you’re generally going to spend three or four days in the hospital, followed by up to a couple weeks of soreness.

It’s not just the potential for addiction that should give you second thoughts about taking opioids. For one thing, a common side effect of opioid painkillers is constipation. As you can imagine, this puts a lot of strain on an area of the body that is already quite overworked and sore. Opioids can make you groggy, which could potentially be dangerous when you’re dealing with a newborn child. There is also some evidence that opioids can accumulate in breast milk, although the risk is fairly minimal if the medication is taken after breastfeeding, in order to maximize the amount of time between the two events and minimizing the amount of the drug that’s transferred.

Luckily, there are plenty of alternative options for pain relief. Experts suggest the use of a combination of acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. The amount of these drugs that is passed through breast milk is negligible. However, aspirin should be avoided if you’re breastfeeding, as it can linger in milk for up to 24 hours and is passed on to the infant in fairly high amounts. There are also some alternative techniques that women with less severe pain can try, such as mindfulness, taking warm showers, breathing exercises, and massage.


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that if new mothers absolutely must have opioids, doctors should educate them and their families on the health risks of those drugs to both the woman and baby. The lowest possible potency should be used for the shortest amount of time in order to prevent addiction.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.