The additional weight and extra surge of hormones during pregnancy can lead to back pain. This is a common ailment that particularly affects pregnant women in the second and third trimesters. In fact, about 50 to 70 percent of women report experiencing back pain at some point in their pregnancy.
As your baby develops inside your uterus, your body will adjust to accommodate the bump. Your lower spine will curve inwards to support the added weight in your pelvic region, while the top of the spine will curve outwards to support the growth of your breasts.
At this time, your body is also pumping a hormone known as relaxin (ironic, we know, considering how un-relaxed you feel) through your system. Relaxin will soften the tissues between your bones and allow your body to expand along with your growing belly. This hormone also plays a key role in loosening joints and tissues, giving your bones greater flexibility, letting them shift and move to adjust to your baby’s growth.
Back pain causes
Ouch – where did that come from? Back pain during pregnancy can be attributed to a number of causes. Here are the main ones:
- The hormone relaxin, which causes increased joint movement, can cause extra strain on your back and hips
- Your changing posture caused by your larger uterus and stretched abdominal muscles.
- Excessive standing or bending over can also contribute to back pain
- Your center of gravity will shift forward as your baby grows and adds weight to your lower back, making the muscles there shorter, tighter and more painful
- Particularly towards the end of pregnancy, the position of your baby can compress nerves and cause back pain
As your baby gets heavier, back pain may increase as more weight is added to your abdominal region.
Back pain relief
Bye, bye back pain. Just because back pain is a common discomfort during pregnancy doesn’t mean you have to sit and suffer through it. Here are six ways to keep back pain at bay:
1. Get a massage
When you’re experiencing excruciating backache, a simple rubdown may be just what the doctor ordered. Use this as an excuse for bonding time – just plead with your partner to rub your back. It’s safe for you and the baby, but if your partner is nervous (or simply doesn’t have that magic touch) look for a massage therapist that specializes in prenatal work. Indulge in a pregnancy massage, which is specially designed to alleviate swelling and reduce stress on weight bearing joints.
2. Use a heat pack
Heat packs can also help to alleviate back pain by improving blood flow to your aching muscles, which will relax them. Just apply the heat pack for stretches of about 15 to 20 minutes as often as every three to four hours. When using these, watch out for overheating – the pack should feel comfortably warm, not blisteringly hot.
3. Stand up straight
Even if back pain makes you want to curl into a ball until your due date, it’s important that you maintain good posture and stand straight, taking some pressure off of your strained back. Here are some tips for a stronger stance:
- Imagine a string pulling your head and neck up towards the ceiling – this will help you stand up straight.
- Straighten your upper back, making a straight line from your ear, through your shoulder, and to your hip. Tuck your pelvis under, straightening your lower back.
- Keep everything in line by contracting your abdominal muscles and buttocks, which act as a natural “corset” for your lower back.
- Whenever seated, use a small pillow at the curve of your spine to support your back and encourage good posture.
- Don’t cross your legs when sitting, as this decreases circulation and can exacerbate pain.
- Pack away the high heels (break them out for a postpartum celebration in a few months) and opt for supportive shoes with a slight heel.
4. Use a pillow
Take note of how you lie in bed at night, as certain positions can put unnecessary strain on your spine. Lying on your side will take stress off your lower back without reducing the blood flow to the placenta and your baby. It can also be helpful to grab an extra pillow for a good night’s sleep:
- Support the weight of your top leg and decrease low back strain by placing a pillow between your legs.
- A pillow under your abdomen can help support the weight of your uterus and take the strain off that area.
- If in need of extra back support, place a pillow under your back.
5. Stay fit
Though you may feel better suited to catch a marathon of A Baby Story (it counts as research, right) than go for a spin around the neighborhood, it’s important to keep moving during your pregnancy to promote good circulation and keep your muscles in check. The CDC recommends light to moderate exercise such as yoga, walking, swimming or stationary cycling. Even a 20 to 30 minute stroll once a day can make a huge difference. Your doctor will be able to tell you what type of exercise is right for you as your pregnancy progresses.
6. Squat or kneel, don’t bend
Be mindful of how – and how often – you’re bending over, whether it’s to pick up your toddler or while tidying your home.
- Always squat or kneel, while keeping your back straight, to pick up objects. Never bend with your legs straight.
- If you have a young child and you’re pregnant, make sure to take care of yourself while picking him up: kneel or squat, or let the child climb up into your lap. Explain that Mom needs to be extra careful while their younger brother or sister is growing.
- Take a creative approach to housework. If you hang the laundry out to dry, or are folding clothes while standing, make sure to place the laundry basket on a chair so that you’re not constantly bending to pick up clothes. While vacuuming, try lunging with your legs instead of bending over to reach tight corners. Try to minimize your bending as much as possible.