Back Pain During Pregnancy
Pregnancy back pain is a common complaint. In fact, between 50 and 70% of pregnant women complain of back pain at some stage. In particular, lower back pain or tailbone pain.
Some women complain of back pain already in the first trimester of pregnancy. However, more women experience pregnancy back pain during the third trimester of pregnancy.
It is important to be aware of the causes of back pain during pregnancy so that you can start with preventative exercises or habits early on in your pregnancy.
What Causes Back Pain During Pregnancy?
You body is gradually changing shape and you are gaining weight. Changes to the way you carry your weight can affect your back, causing back pain during pregnancy.
There are many bodily changes during pregnancy which could contribute to back pain:
- Hormonal changes. Increase in Relaxin hormone, causing joints and ligaments to loosen up and therefore not be as strong.
- Muscle tightening. Tightening of some muscles in order to compensate for other muscles that have relaxed – causing joints and ligaments to slightly move out of their normal positions. This could cause longer term problems if not corrected, due to disalignment of muscles.
- Increased weight, putting extra pressure on joints and ligaments.
- Bad posture. Back pain can happen when your posture changes during pregnancy and is not corrected properly. It is very easy to slip into a posture where you push your belly out and curve your spine. Imagine what this is doing to the bones and ligaments – pushing them into new places, causing unnecessary stress.
- Trapped nerves (see Sciatic nerve). When joints and ligaments loosen, or muscles change, this can lead to nerves getting trapped, causing back pain.
- Stress. According to the >American Association of Pregnancy, stress can build up in weaker areas of the body, which could be in the pelvic area, which supports the back, thus creating back pain. Stress can also lead to tightening of muscles.
Tips for Easing Backpain During Pregnancy
Planning a pregnancy?
There is a lot that you can do to help your body prepare for pregnancy. Dr. Anthon Cortes recommends women to train and strengthen their abdominal muscles in preparation for pregnancy. Strengthening core muscles means that they are able to provide more strength to the back during pregnancy, encouraging a better posture and therefore reducing possible backpain.
Early pregnancy - first trimester
- Gentle exercise with back muscle strengthening which are suitable for pregnant women – get into the habit of doing strengthening exercises, even if it is for just 5 minutes a day. Consult your doctor for recommendations.
- Staying active throughout pregnancy is helpful for keeping muscles toned. Always check which exercises are suitable for pregnancy. I preferred walking, swimming and yoga.
- Ensure good posture is maintained when sitting and standing – sit up straight, keep your weight balanced correctly so that your spine is in the correct position. If you are sitting a lot in an office, you could request a lumbar pillow or invest in one yourself, to support you in maintaining good posture.
- Wear appropriate shoes which support your feet and weight
- Acupuncture – can help to relax muscles that are being overworked
- Visit a chiropractor to get your back adjusted and for recommendations
Second and third trimesters
- Continue with all of the above
- Sleep on your side – sleeping on your back as your belly grows, can put extra pressure on your spine. It is also a lot comfier to sleep on your side.
- Use a pregnancy pillow to provide extra support whilst sleeping. Choose a pillow which will support your body and back in your favourite sleeping position. The U Shaped and the C Shaped pillows are my favourites. Plus they provide great support for your back.