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Back Pain During Pregnancy

Back Pain During Pregnancy

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Along with fatigue, nausea, crazy food cravings, difficulty sleeping, having to pee all of the time, swollen feet, waddling around like a penguin, and losing sight of your feet (is the list long enough yet?), many pregnant women experience back pain at some point during their pregnancies.


Back pain or discomfort is not uncommon during pregnancy. It can be experienced at any point during pregnancy, although it is most common as a woman’s pregnancy progresses and her baby grows.


Back pain might disrupt your daily activities or routine or it may get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Read on to learn more about back pain during pregnancy and learn some ways you can (hopefully) fight the symptoms away, enabling you to get some more R&R before baby comes along!


Back pain can take place in multiple places in the body during pregnancy. Many women who suffer from pregnancy-related back pain experience pain in their lower back. In fact, lower back pain ails more than two-thirds of pregnant women. Back pain during pregnancy may also occur near the center of the back, which is often referred to as lumbar pain by doctors. It may also take place near the tailbone, which is called “tailbone pain.”


What Causes Back Pain During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy-related back pain may be caused by a number of factors. Below are some of the potential causes of back discomfort or pain during pregnancy:

  • Hormonal changes: Your body releases hormones, such as estrogen and relaxin, during pregnancy that help your joints and ligaments in your pelvis to loosen and soften. This process not only helps for your pregnancy but also the delivery of your baby. The effects of the hormones don’t stop there - move through your whole body, impacting your joints. This loosening and softening can have a direct impact on your back, manifesting itself in the form of aches and pains.
  • Additional weight: The weight gain that women experience during pregnancy can create additional strain on your back, adding on additional weight for your back to support.
  • Changed center of gravity: As your uterus grows to support your growing baby, your center of gravity can shift, causing your posture to change. This difference in posture can lead to back pain during your pregnancy.
  • Muscle separation: As your baby grows and your uterus expands, two sheets of muscles that run along your abdomen, known as the rectal abdominis muscles, may separate, which can also worsen back pain.
  • Urinary tract infection: If you experience pain while urinating or a frequent need to urinate, it is important to talk to your doctor to determine if you have a condition that requires treatment.
  • Sciatica: Sciatica is a condition that results from irritation or injury to the sciatic nerve. During pregnancy, it commonly occurs when the growing baby puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. One of the main symptoms of this condition is lower back pain that often radiates down the leg and through the buttocks. 


When Does Back Pain Start In Pregnancy?

Some pregnant women experience symptoms of lower back pain at the onset of pregnancy while others do not experience back pain symptoms until later. Research shows that lower back pain during pregnancy often takes place between the fifth and seventh months although it can begin as early as 8 to 12 weeks after conception in some cases.


How To Prevent Back Pain During Pregnancy

Although pregnancy-related back pain may not be able to be prevented entirely, there are things that you can do to eliminate the frequency or severity:

  • Squat when picking items up rather than bending at the waist. Keep your back straight.
  • Avoid sleeping on your back.
  • Do exercises that help to support and strengthen the abdomen and back. Talk with your doctor or other health care provider to ensure any exercises you do are approved for your pregnancy.
  • Consider seeing a chiropractor to have your back adjusted.
  • Avoid wearing shoes that do not offer adequate support. It is also prudent to avoid wearing heels during pregnancy.
  • Wear a pregnancy support belt under your lower abdomen for support.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees.
  • Elevate your feet when you can.
  • Avoid standing for long periods of time.


What Can I Do To Ease Back Pain?

Despite the fact that pregnancy-related back pain is inevitable for most women, there are ways to relive the pain when it comes along. Many of the above tips for preventing back pain are also beneficial for easing back pain. Some other ways you can relieve back pain during pregnancy include:

  • Use a warm compress to relax muscle tightness or to ease or reduce inflammation.
  • Practice good posture by standing up straight and tall and keeping your shoulders relaxed and back. Also remember to not lock your knees and hold your chest up high.
  • Sit in chairs that offer good back support – or use a small pillow behind your lower back.
  • Regular physical activity can also help to keep your body strong and your weight on track – each of which can help to reduce the symptoms of back pain during pregnancy. Try gentle activities, such as water exercise or walking, to alleviate discomfort. You can also stretch your lower back. Talk with your doctor or a physical therapist about activities that are appropriate for relieving pregnancy-related back pain symptoms.
  • Consider getting a gentle pregnancy massage if your doctor says it is okay. Prenatal massages offer many benefits outside of reducing back pain symptoms, including regulating hormones and improving sleep.
  • Reduce stress through prenatal yoga, meditation or other mindfulness techniques.
  • Avoid lifting too much.


When To See A Doctor About Back Pain During Pregnancy

If you experience back pain during pregnancy that does not let up or that is severe, you should contact your obstetrician or other healthcare provider – especially if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain or difficulty when urinating
  • Severe pain
  • Cramps that gradually intensify or occur at regular intervals
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Tingling sensations in the limbs
  • Pain that lasts more than two weeks
  • Fever
  • Irregular vaginal discharge

The good news, although back pain is common during pregnancy, it often resolves on its own after giving birth. Remember to contact your healthcare provider if you have pain that lasts longer than 2 weeks or if you have any other concerns related to your back pain during pregnancy.

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  • Courtney Cosby
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