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Q&A: I have lower back pain and I'm pregnant. Help!

Lower back pain or discomfort is a common pregnancy symptom for many women. As you gain weight and hormones loosen joints to accommodate the size of your baby, many women will complain of aches, fatigue, or even moderate to severe pain in the lower back.

There are some things you can do to lessen the severity and improve the symptoms:

  • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes
  • Continue to exercise if you have been doing so
  • Sleep on your left side with pillows to provide good spine alignment
  • Sit in comfortable, supportive chairs
  • Bend your knees when lifting (never lift heavy objects)
  • Take acetaminophen as prescribed by your doctor
  • Use heat or ice on your lower back
  • Have a massage or see a chiropractor (make sure they are trained and specialize in working with pregnant women)

And, yes, you should lie on your left side. Here’s why. There is a large vessel that runs behind the uterus called the vena cava. If you lay on your back, this may compress the vena cava, compromising blood flow, which can result in dizziness or nausea. It also decreases the efficiency of blood flow to the placenta. The vena cava tends to shift to the right side of the uterus, so getting on your left side will maximize blood flow and keep you comfortable. If you have always slept on your belly, back or right side, it may feel uncomfortable at first, but you will adjust to this position quickly. Don’t panic if you wake up on your back, just readjust and get back to dreamland.

Just because it is an expected symptom of pregnancy, don’t take back pain lightly. Constant dull, low back pain can sometimes be a symptom of labor. Severe pain along with other symptoms like dizziness, vaginal bleeding, or rupture of membranes (breaking of water) should be reported to your doctor.

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