Back Pain During Pregnancy – Causes and Tips For Relief

Back Pain During Pregnancy - Causes and Tips For Relief

If pregnancy is beginning to give you a pain in the back, you’re not alone. Back pain during pregnancy is a common complaint. It probably affects more than half of all women at some stage during pregnancy.

While the pain can be mildly annoying to downright distressful, in most cases it’s simply a fact of life during pregnancy.

Very rarely, back pain during pregnancy can be a sign of something of more concern.

If back pain is causing you severe pain, disability, or lack of sleep, have a chat to your care provider.

What Causes Back Pain During Pregnancy?

Back pain can be caused by a number of different factors during pregnancy.

Most often, back pain starts around mid-pregnancy, when your belly begins to show and pushes out of the pelvic area.

If you already have existing back pain, pregnancy is likely to make it more pronounced, from early on.

Causes of back pain during pregnancy include:

  • Relaxin – this hormone is released during pregnancy to allow the ligaments in your pelvis to soften, and the joints to become more flexible. These changes put extra strain on your back and hips.
  • Posture – your lower back naturally begins to curve inwards, as your baby grows, and your centre of gravity alters to accommodate this weight. You probably won’t notice how your posture and movements will alter over time but this can cause back strain and pain.
  • Position of baby – nerves can be pinched or compressed, depending on how baby is positioned, and this causes mild to severe pain
  • Added weight – as your baby grows, the extra weight puts pressure on nerves and blood vessels. Your spine carries this extra weight but it can cause muscles to feel tight and strained.
  • Your baby’s weight causes your lower back to sway as your centre of gravity moves forward. This makes back muscles short, tight, and painful.
  • Abdominal separation – the two lines of muscle running down your abdominals begin to separate to accommodate your uterus as it pushes forward. This separation can increase back pain.
  • Referred pain – you might be experiencing weakness in other parts of your pelvis, such as separation of the symphis pubic arch. These changes to your pelvis can also affect your back and increase pain.

Should I Worry About Back Pain During Pregnancy?

You should always talk to your care provider if you are experiencing pain during pregnancy. It can help to have some reassurance what you are feeling is a normal part of pregnancy.

But there are times when back pain can be a sign things are not quite right. These symptoms should definitely be looked into as soon as possible:

  • Pain with vaginal bleeding: sensations which feel like uterine tightening or contractions ,with back pain that comes and goes, as well as vaginal bleeding or discharge. These can indicate premature labour or placental problems.
  • Sudden pain: severe pain coming on swiftly without any apparent cause should be checked out. If you experience any kind of trauma, such as a car accident or a fall, pain can indicate serious injury and needs to be investigated.
  • Fever and back pain: if not treated, bladder or kidney infections can cause serious complications, such as preterm labour. Pain in the lower back and sides, painful urination, blood in urine, and fever are signs to watch for.
  • Loss of feeling: if you lose feeling in one or both of your legs, or if you are weak and not coordinated, you should contact your care provider immediately.

How Can I Treat Back Pain During Pregnancy?

While back pain is often something you have to live with during pregnancy, there are a number of ways you can alleviate it.

As early as possible during pregnancy, ensure you are eating a well balanced diet to provide your body with essential minerals and vitamins. Being physically active can also help prevent back pain but be careful not to exercise too hard.

For normal back pain during pregnancy, try these methods:

  • Warm baths or showers often bring relief to tight, aching muscles. A heat pack directly on the area can help too. Some people find a cold pack is more soothing.
  • Back/belly devices can relieve pressure on your back, especially when you are on your feet and moving. However not all women find these useful.
  • Side lying with a support pillow between your knees takes pressure off your back.
  • A pregnancy massage, or acupuncture, might help to relax your body and relieve back pain
  • Regular treatment from an osteopath or chiropractor who specialises in pregnancy care can help. If your pelvis out of alignment, this can cause back pain
  • You can improve your posture by standing tall, with shoulders back, and tucking your pelvis under. Avoid high heels and shoes that don’t provide support
  • Use back support when sitting to keep your spine straight; don’t slouch on the couch!
  • Watch how you move. Squat or kneel to lower yourself to the floor or pick up large objects, rather than bend with straight legs.
  • Try to make sure you get enough rest every day.
  • Medications might be recommended by your care provider.

Pregnancy can certainly take a toll on your body. Taking steps to avoid causing back pain, and easing symptoms as they appear can help you to enjoy pregnancy as much as possible.

The good news is most back pain is temporary, and will most likely disappear in the first few months after your baby is born. Always talk to your care provider if you have any concerns or worries about pain during pregnancy.

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Sam McCulloch Dip CBEd CONTRIBUTOR

Sam McCulloch enjoyed talking so much about birth she decided to become a birth educator and doula, supporting parents in making informed choices about their birth experience. In her spare time she writes novels. She is mother to three beautiful little humans.


2 comments

  1. Not sure why you omitted a physiotherapist specialising in pregnancy but they were a god send during my first pregnancy and cover all bases that chiros and osteos do too!

    1. Sam, I had a car accident almost 20 years ago, and initially was told to see a physio. I saw a few in two different states (moved to another state), and they never really helped. In fact some of them would leave a hot pack on my back for a while, see another patient, do a couple of stretches and I was off. Felt I could have done it at home. Once I discovered osteos, myotherapists etc I got so much more relief. Even remedial massage was more effective in reducing the pain. I know lots of people in my industry who feel the same way, so I decided to just focus on those who have helped me. But if a physio works for you, go for it!

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