Over-the-counter Painkillers and Anti-inflammatory Drugs

For all-over soreness and uterine cramping, taking ibuprofen and acetaminophen (most commonly called Advil or Motrin, and Tylenol) around the clock are popular choices. Both of these drugs are generally considered safe to take while nursing. Often, one medication will begin to wear off before you can take another dose of that same medication. If this happens, you may take ibuprofen and acetaminophen together so that one is kicking in just as the other is wearing off, and you can alternate the two so that as one is wearing off, the other is just kicking in.


In the first few days after having a baby, it's easy to forget when you had your last dose of medication, especially if you're alternating painkillers. Try creating a simple chart and keeping it by your bed or sofa, then checking off each medication as you take it to keep you from accidentally skipping or doubling up on a dose.

If you're taking acetaminophen, it's important that you not exceed the dosage recommended on the label, because of the danger of liver damage. But most women can safely take ibuprofen at a dosage of 800 mg every four to six hours, as long as they don't exceed 2,400 mg in a twenty-four-hour period. You shouldn't need it for more than two or three days — if you do, talk to your midwife or doctor about dosage. If you choose to take these medications, you'll want to make sure to keep up the dosage around the clock to keep pain at bay. If you wait until the pain is most intense, the medication may not have as much effect.

Something Stronger

If you're very sore, your doctor, midwife, or a nurse may offer you Tylenol 3, which contains codeine. This is usually considered safe, but as with any narcotic, be careful — some people react more strongly to pain-relieving medications than others. Some health-care providers routinely give new mothers strong medications like Vicodin to manage soreness. If you're recovering from a c-section, are in a lot of pain, and can't enjoy your new baby or get any sleep, you may consider these options. However, be aware that these medications may have negative effects. Some of these medications are constipating, which can make after-birth cramping and hemorrhoids worse. You may also find that you're very drowsy and unable to hold your baby, and you may also fall into a deep sleep and have a hard time waking up to feed or care for her. Ask your care provider about side effects before you take any medications, and if drowsiness is a side effect, be sure you have another person in the room to help you care for your baby.

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