Back pain during pregnancy is common, and most women should expect it to some degree. You are growing a baby in your body after all, and that can create some discomfort. While some back pain is normal, women need to understand what is normal and what is not, along with an understanding of how to find relief from pregnancy back pain.
With all of my pregnancies, I’ve had some back pain. At some point, it would make getting comfortable for bedtime hard. I felt stiff; bending was difficult, and I ached. I had to find some relief!
If you’re experiencing back pain during pregnancy, you are not alone! Evidence shows that back pain occurs in 50 to 70 percent of pregnant women. That’s a vast majority of pregnant women, and chances are you’ve experienced it or your best friend.
When Does Back Pain Start in Pregnancy?
Studies show that back pain in pregnancy begins between the 5th and 7th month of pregnancy. However, some women experience pain as early as 8-12 weeks after becoming pregnant.
Those who experience back pain earlier in pregnancy might have a higher risk of back pain, such as preexisting spine conditions or regular back pain before pregnancy.
By the 5th month of pregnancy, your baby and uterus have some weight to them, and they start to press against your spine. Also, your belly is more noticeable, so your uterus causes your center of gravity to shift.
What Cause Back Pain in Pregnancy?
Several factors cause back pain during pregnancy. Most of them are related to the pregnancy changes that take place in your body.
1. Increase of Hormones
Hormones change during pregnancy, and your body releases hormones during pregnancy that allows the ligaments in the pelvic area to soften and the joints to become looser. The hormone is called relaxin, and it’s designed to shift the joints and loosen the ligaments in preparation for the birthing process. Your baby needs to move down the birth canal.
2. Additional Weight
You’re going to gain extra weight during pregnancy; that’s normal. A healthy pregnancy leads to an average weight gain of 25-35 pounds. So, your baby and the changes in your body creates extra weight that your back must support. The excess weight causes lower back pain, plus the uterus and baby also put pressure on blood vessels and nerves in the pelvis and back.
3. Center of Gravity
As your belly gets bigger, your center of gravity moves forward, so you have to adjust your posture to the change.
Stress can accumulate in the weak areas in your body, and with all of the changes in your pelvic area, you might experience an increase in back pain. Stressful periods of your pregnancy can make the back pain worse.
5. Posture or Position
As your body’s center of gravity changes and you gain more weight, you will experience poor posture. Excessive standing and bending over can trigger or escalate the pain in your back.
Risk Factors for Back Pain During Pregnancy
While any woman can have back pain, but you are more likely to experience it if you have a few factors, such as:
Unfortunately, even if you don’t have any of these risk factors, there is a high probability that you’ll develop some degree of back pain in your pregnancy. Also, if you experienced back pain in one pregnancy, it’s highly likely to continue in subsequent pregnancies.
What’s the Difference Between Back Pain and Back Labor?
You might have heard of back labor before, and let me tell you; it’s no walk in the park. Back labor is excruciating, but all of labor and delivery is painful. So, how do you tell the difference between normal back pain and back labor?
It’s important to understand that labor pains are a whole different type of pain. Imagine an awful menstrual cramp or terrible gas cramps. That’s similar to what a labor contraction will feel like. If you experience discomfort such as this followed by any of these characteristics, you might be in labor.
How to Prevent Pregnancy Back Pain?
Chances are, you won’t be able to prevent back pain altogether. It’s normal to a degree, but you can do things to reduce the severity or frequency. Using the right techniques also can help reduce the risk of injury; it’s easier to injure yourself when your ligaments and joints are loosened.
1. Practice Good Posture
Have you ever slouched for an hour and then noticed how bad your back hurts? Proper posture, whether you’re sitting or standing, makes a big difference in how your back feels throughout the day.
When you’re pregnant, your center of gravity shifts as your uterus grows, and that can cause you to slump over, trying to compensate for that shift in balance. However, when you slouch forward, you’re going to cause more back pain.
So, try to stand up straight. Don’t hunch over your belly. Some women find that keeping a hand on their stomach does help with balance.
2. Wear the Right Shoes
I was a server for years, even when I was pregnant, and if you’re on your feet a lot, you’ll know how important it is to have good shoes with support. Avoid high heels and other shoes that lack adequate support for your legs and back.
That doesn’t mean you need to buy all brand new shoes for your pregnancy. Instead, you can add insoles for your shoes that give you more support, and stick to lower shoes in general.
3. Lift Properly
Sometimes, we have to lift things, and since your ligaments are already loosened, it’s quite easy to injure yourself. When you want to lift anything, make sure you squat to pick the item up instead of bending over.
Using your legs to lift properly puts the weight on your legs rather than using your back to lift. It’s never a good idea to lift with your back, whether you’re pregnant or not. So, get in the habit of lifting properly!
4. Sleep on Your Side
Avoid sleeping on your back. It’s hard to control yourself when you’re sleeping; you have no idea what you’re doing. However, make sure you start off sleeping on your side.
Not only does sleeping on your back reduces oxygen flow to your baby, but it also puts all of the weight of your baby and uterus against your spine. As the uterus presses against your back, it can cause more back pain.
5. Exercise Regularly
When your back is aching, the last thing you want to do is exercise. It sounds like a torture session! At the same time, regular exercise strengthens muscles and boosts flexibility, which can ease the stress on your spine.
Pregnant women have plenty of safe exercise options, such as swimming, stationary cycling, and walking. Be sure to speak to your doctor to find a recommendation for exercises to strengthen your back and abdomen.
7 Ways to Relieve Pregnancy Back Pain
So, you already have backache during pregnancy. I know how much that can hurt, and it’s frustrating because it limits what you can do. If you have other kids, back pain makes it harder to keep up with them and to do the activities you all enjoy.
Try some of these treatment options and ways to relieve back pain during pregnancy.
1. Physical Therapy
Your health care provider can recommend a physical therapist or even a chiropractor to help relieve your back pain. A physical therapist can help you learn exercises that strengthen your back and reduce the stress placed on your spine.
A chiropractor can do similar things and make simple adjustments in your skeletal system to support your body. Whatever choice you make is up to you, but seeking help with your back pain is a wise choice. You don’t have to live in misery!
2. Exercise: Try Prenatal Yoga
We mentioned exercising above and how important it is for your overall health as well as your back pain. Prenatal yoga is one of the best exercises to try when you have back pain. The flow of yoga can help to strengthen your back, widen your hips, and stretch the muscles that might be inflamed due to your chronic back pain.
If you do opt to try prenatal yoga, let the instructor know that you’re having back pain. You’ll want to make adjustments to the poses and not push yourself too far. That could make the pain worse. Regular yoga will increases your flexibility as well as relaxing your mind and body.
3. Use Support Pillows
Sleeping during pregnancy is already a serious challenge. I lived with heartburn frequently during pregnancy, and coupled with back pain, getting a good night’s rest seemed like a thing of the past.
Using pregnancy support pillows can keep you in a good position while sleeping. I know that I love to sleep on my back, but it’s not great for pregnancy. Instead, having a support pillow behind my back allowed me to lean back against the pillow, giving me the feeling of sleeping on my back while still having support.
If you find that your hips hurt when you lay on your side, try putting a pillow between your knees. That elevates your legs to hip level so that they won’t experience pressure at the downward angle.
4. Ice & Heat Applications
When I had back pain during pregnancy, nothing felt as good as leaning against heat and cold. Whether that was slipping into a warm bathtub or using an ice pack, it brought on immediate changes in my discomfort levels.
Start by putting cold compresses on the painful areas of your back your around 20 minutes several times per day. A bag of ice or frozen veggies work, but I also found a gel pack that can be frozen or heated. It worked great.
The next day or two days from now, switch to using heat. A heating pad or a hot water bottle feels fantastic on the painful areas of your back. Never apply heat to your abdomen during pregnancy, and make sure the temperatures are too hot.
5. Complementary Treatments
Look for a massage therapist certified in prenatal massage. Getting a prenatal massage is an investment in your body wellness, and it feels incredible. Plus, an hour in the spa can help you mentally feel better. I always feel refreshed, body, and soul after I get a massage.
6. Use a Support Belt
A support belt goes under your belly, lifting it a bit. It also can help you keep the right posture throughout the day. Adding support is nothing short of a miracle, so give them a try!
You can purchase support belts for pregnancy online, but your doctor might sell them or have a brand recommendation to try.
7. Take Pain Medicine
Sometimes, back pain is just too much for the day. It’s fine to take some pain medicine, so long as you take pregnancy-safe pain medicine. Tylenol is the safest choice recommended by doctors.
However, if you find that you need pain medicine every day due to your back pain, it’s time to talk to your doctor.
When to Consult Your Doctor?
So, we know that back pain while pregnant is normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s always okay. It’s typically not a reason to contact your health care provider, but there are a few times when you should contact your doctor.
You should contact your health care provider if you’re experiencing any of these issues:
In rare cases, back pain during pregnancy might indicate problems like pregnancy-associated osteoporosis, septic arthritis, or vertebral osteoarthritis. If you’re experiencing any of the issues above, be sure to speak to your doctor.
When your back hurts, it’s hard to keep perspective. Thankfully, back pain during pregnancy is usually limited to pregnancy, so it will go away once your baby arrives.
Make sure you take the appropriate steps to prevent back pain from developing in your pregnancy. Then, if you have any, use the recommended ways to relieve back pain during pregnancy. They’ll help you feel better until your baby arrives.