Acetaminophen Alone Works Well for Postpartum Pain

March 17, 2010 By Joan Vos MacDonald, Health Behavior News Service

For many mothers of newborns, lingering pain from the delivery can interfere with their first days with their infant. A recent review examined whether over-the-counter medications containing acetaminophen - Tylenol for example - provided adequate relief for such pain and concluded that they are effective.

Bruising during the delivery or interventions such as the use of forceps or an episiotomy can cause perineal pain.

“The reason to conduct this review comes from the more contemporary understanding that adequate relief of perineal pain is an important issue for the mother - a quality of life issue - and may affect her ability to interact with her baby,” said Dr. Doris Chou, lead review author. “But of course in the excitement after a baby’s birth, a mother’s needs may be forgotten.”

Chou is a medical officer with department of and research at the and is lead author of the review.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The
Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

Altogether, the reviewers analyzed 10 studies comprising 1,367 women who received a single dose (500 mg) of , a double dose (1,000 mg) or a . Women who received acetaminophen rather than a placebo were 95 percent more likely to report pain relief.

While acetaminophen is already a standard postpartum pain relief therapy, “it is important to understand why and upon what evidence even the most seemingly basic interventions are offered,” Chou said.

Besides acetaminophen alone, clinicians often give ibuprofen alone or medications containing a combination of acetaminophen or ibuprofen with a narcotic — for example 3 or Percocet — for .

“Certainly acetaminophen alone appears to have some effect and has the lowest side-effect profile of all the medications,” said Laura Goetzl, M.D. “Therefore, if a woman’s personal pain can be controlled adequately with acetaminophen, this is a safe and effective intervention.”

Goetzl, with the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina,+ is not affiliated with the review.

The review did not have enough data to assess the safety of giving acetaminophen to breastfeeding mothers or any effect this might have on their babies.

Review studies took place between 1973 and 1992. In recent years, obstetricians have been exploring ways to ease delivery and reduce postpartum pain.

“There is less perineal pain now as routine episiotomies are discouraged and fewer forceps vacuum deliveries are being performed,” Goetzl said. “Therefore I would expect that perineal pain is less now than it was when the original articles were published.”

Future reviews will cover other medications for postpartum pain, for instance nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil.

“No matter what trends occur in obstetrics regarding mode of delivery or methods of assisting delivery, spontaneous birth that is without any medical interventions may still result in discomfort and pain for the mother,” Chou said.

More information: Chou D, et al. Paracetemol/acetaminophen (single administration) for perineal pain in the early postpartum period. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010. Issue 3.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

In most surgery patients, length of opioid prescription, number of refills spell highest risk for misuse

January 17, 2018
The possible link between physicians' opioid prescription patterns and subsequent abuse has occupied the attention of a nation in the throes of an opioid crisis looking for ways to stem what experts have dubbed an epidemic. ...

Patients receive most opioids at the doctor's office, not the ER

January 16, 2018
Around the country, state legislatures and hospitals have tightened emergency room prescribing guidelines for opioids to curb the addiction epidemic, but a new USC study shows that approach diverts attention from the main ...

FDA bans use of opioid-containing cough meds by kids

January 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Trying to put a dent in the ongoing opioid addiction crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday slapped strict new restrictions on the use of opioid-containing cold and cough products by kids.

Taking ibuprofen for long periods found to alter human testicular physiology

January 9, 2018
A team of researchers from Denmark and France has found that taking regular doses of the pain reliever ibuprofen over a long period of time can lead to a disorder in men called compensated hypogonadism. In their paper published ...

Nearly one-third of Canadians have used opioids: study

January 9, 2018
Nearly one in three Canadians (29 percent) have used "some form of opioids" in the past five years, according to data released Tuesday as widespread fentanyl overdoses continue to kill.

Growing opioid epidemic forcing more children into foster care

January 8, 2018
The opioid epidemic has become so severe it's considered a national public health emergency. Addiction to prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine, has contributed to a dramatic rise in overdose deaths and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.