Understanding the Postpartum Cesarean Pain Experience Among Individuals With Publicly Funded Insurance: A Qualitative Investigation

Nevert Badreldin*, Julia D. DiTosto, Karolina Leziak, Charlotte M. Niznik, Lynn M Yee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Pain is the most common postpartum concern and has been associated with adverse outcomes, such as difficulty with neonatal bonding, postpartum depression, and persistent pain. Furthermore, racial and ethnic disparities in the management of postpartum pain are well described. Despite this, less is known regarding patients’ lived experiences regrading postpartum pain. The purpose of this study was to assess patient experiences related to postpartum pain management after cesarean birth. Methods: This is a prospective qualitative study of patients’ experiences with postpartum pain management after cesarean birth at a single large tertiary care center. Individuals were eligible if they had publicly funded prenatal care, were English or Spanish speaking, and underwent a cesarean birth. Purposive sampling was used to ensure a racially and ethnically diverse cohort. Participants underwent in-depth interviews using a semistructured interview guide at 2 time points: postpartum day 2 to 3 and 2 to 4 weeks after discharge. Interviews addressed perceptions and experiences of postpartum pain management and recovery. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. Results: Of 49 participants, 40.8% identified as non-Hispanic Black and 40.8% as Hispanic. The majority (59.2%) had experienced a cesarean birth with a prior pregnancy. Thematic analysis yielded 2 overarching domains: (1) experience of pain after cesarean birth and (2) pain management and opioid use after cesarean birth. Themes related to the experience of pain included pain as a meaningful experience, pain not aligned with expectations, and limitations caused by pain. All participants discussed limitations caused by their pain, voicing frustration with pursuing activities of daily living, caring for home and family, caring for neonate, and impact on mood. Themes related to pain management and opioid use addressed a desire for nonpharmacologic pain management, positive and negative experiences using opioids, and hesitancy and perceived judgement regarding opioid use. Several participants described experiences of judgement regarding the request for opioids and needing stronger pain medications, such as oxycodone. Discussion: Understanding experiences regarding postpartum cesarean pain management and recovery is essential to improving patient-centered care. The experiences identified by this analysis highlight the need for individualized postpartum pain management, improved expectation counseling, and the expansion of multimodal pain management options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Midwifery and Women's Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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