Recovery after Nulliparous Birth: A Detailed Analysis of Pain Analgesia and Recovery of Function

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Abstract

Background:

The majority of parturients in the United States first return for evaluation by their obstetric practitioner 6 weeks after delivery. As such, there is little granular data on the pain experience, analgesic requirements, and functional recovery during the postpartum period. This prospective observational study was performed to evaluate these factors to provide expectations for patients.

Methods:

A total of 213 nulliparous women were enrolled and assessed daily until they completed 3 outcomes: (1) pain resolution; (2) opioid cessation; and (3) self-assessed functional recovery from delivery. The primary endpoint, pain- and opioid-free functional recovery, was the time required to reach all three of the endpoints. Pain burden was assessed as the area under the curve created by plotting the daily numerical pain rating scale against the days required to attain pain resolution. Times to attain study endpoints after cesarean delivery and vaginal delivery were compared using survival analysis.

Results:

After vaginal delivery, days required for pain and opioid-free functional recovery (median [interquartile range (IQR)]) were 19 [11 to 26], for opioid cessation 0 [0 to 2], termination of all analgesic (including nonsteroidal antiinflammatories and acetaminophen) 11 [5 to 17], and pain resolution 14 [7 to 24]. Achievement of these endpoints after cesarean delivery required 27 [19 to 40], 9 [5 to 12], 16 [11 to 24], and 21 [14 to 27] days, respectively.

Conclusions:

There is clinically significant variability between healthy nulliparous parturients in the pain experience, opioid use, and functional recovery after childbirth following vaginal and cesarean delivery. Recovery to predelivery function is similar after vaginal and cesarean delivery, and approximately half of the variance was explained by pain burden.

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