If You Are Pregnant and Have Back Pain, You Are Not Alone

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You find out you’re pregnant and you’re over the moon with joy.

You’ll be welcoming a bundle of joy into the world and extending your family by one little miracle. Around six weeks into the pregnancy everything is going well except slight nausea… you are superwoman!  Pregnancy is a breeze, and you’re sure you’ll be one of those moms who love being pregnant.

At around three months you feel slight twinges in your lower back. Slowly they get worse and worse until at four months it’s difficult for you to move.

Don’t worry mom, you are not alone.

Around 18 weeks into pregnancy almost 50% of women experience moderate to severe back pain.

The good news is your baby is growing. That’s exactly what should be happening, but it can still be tough on your back.

You’ve got a lot of company, as most pregnant women experience back pain usually starting in the second half of pregnancy.

Pregnancy back pain typically happens where the pelvis meets your spine, at the sacroiliac joint.

There are many possible reasons why it happens. Here are some of the more likely causes:

  1. Weight gain. During a healthy pregnancy, women typically gain between 25 and 35 pounds. The spine has to support that weight, and it may cause lower back pain. The weight of the growing baby and uterus also puts pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the pelvis and back.
  2. Posture changes. Pregnancy shifts your center of gravity. As a result, you may gradually begin to adjust your posture and the way you move. This may result in back pain or strain.
  3. Hormone changes. During pregnancy, your body makes a hormone called relaxin that allows ligaments in the pelvic area to relax and the joints to become looser in preparation for the birth process. The same hormone can cause ligaments that support the spine to loosen, leading to instability and pain.
  4. Muscle separation. As the uterus expands, two parallel sheets of muscles which run from the rib cage to the pubic bone may separate along the center seam. This separation may worsen back pain.
  5. Stress. Emotional stress can cause muscle tension in the back, which may be felt as back pain or back spasms. You may find that you experience an increase in back pain during stressful periods of your pregnancy.

The good news is there are things you can do to minimize your back pain. Here’s what helps:

  1. Practice good posture

Stand up straight and tall. Hold your chest high. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed. Don’t lock your knees.

When you stand, use a comfortably wide stance for the best support. If you must stand for long periods of time, rest one foot on a low step stool and take time for frequent breaks.

  1. Wear proper shoes

Wear low-heeled (not flat) shoes with good arch support. Avoid high heels, which can further shift your balance forward and cause you to fall.

  1. Lift properly

When lifting a small object, squat down and lift with your legs. Don’t bend at the waist or lift with your back. It’s also important to know your limits. Ask for help if you need it.

  1. Sleep on your side

Sleep on your side, not your back. Keep one or both knees bent. Consider using pregnancy or support pillows between your bent knees, under your abdomen, and behind your back.

  1. Try heat, cold, or massage

While evidence to support their effectiveness is limited, massage or the application of a heating pad or ice pack to your back might help.

  1. Include exercise and regular stretching in your daily routine

Regular physical activity can keep your back strong and might relieve back pain during pregnancy.

Also, stretch your lower back. Rest on your hands and knees with your head in line with your back. Pull in your stomach, rounding your back slightly. Hold for several seconds, then relax your stomach and back — keeping your back as flat as possible. Gradually work up to 10 repetitions. Ask your health care provider about other stretching exercises, too.

Shoshi S.
Shoshi is a graduate from Stern College for Women in New York City. Her areas of interest include policy, non-profit organizations, and administration. During winter 2018, she was a White House intern. Shoshi has also interned at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and at Save the Children in New York. As a millennial, Shoshi brings a young and fresh perspective to the worlds of pregnancy and lactation.

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