Pregnancy is that part and time in a woman’s life when she lives more for her growing baby than for herself. If she suffers from back pain or any pain for that matter, she bears it in silence and avoids taking painkiller medication in fear of harming the baby.
More than two-thirds of women experience back pain during pregnancy. No wonder because the pregnant woman is gaining weight, her tummy carrying the baby is bulging and changing the center of gravity of the woman’s body.
Again, pregnancy causes hormonal changes, which relax the muscles and ligaments of the pelvis and the uterus to allow for the uterus to grow in size and accommodate the growing fetus.
The back pain during pregnancy can develop during the first, second or the third trimester but usually, it starts early during the second trimester. It is felt more, especially between the fifth and seventh months. Again, it affects the lower back more than the upper and middle part of the back.
What causes back pain during pregnancy?
There are various causes of back pain in general, but they are not all attributed to the back pain that develops during pregnancy.
Lower back pain during pregnancy is common and occurs due to a number of reasons. It usually starts during the late second trimester and proceeds throughout the third trimester. However, it can also begin during the first trimester.
This pain is felt every day till labor. The causes of back pain during pregnancy include:
- The increase in weight due to the growing fetus. Women typically gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. The growing uterus presses on the blood vessels and nerves of the back, which causes pain in the low back.
- Change in posture due to the change in the center of gravity of the body as a result of the increasing abdomen
- Increase in progesterone (a hormone) levels during pregnancy, which soften and loosen the muscles and ligaments that are going to stretch as the pregnancy progresses and facilitate delivery of the baby. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin increases 10 times its normal concentration, which causes the changes described above. This pain can be felt even during early pregnancy, ie. the first trimester.
Types of pregnancy back pain
Pregnant women experience three types of pain. She may experience either one or both types of pain.
- Pain in the lumbosacral region of the backbone, which means the lower back
- Burning pain in the back
- Pain in the back of the pelvic area over the buttocks, which can radiate to the pubic bone in the front
The low back pain
The low back pain is located on the back below the waist level. It may radiate down the posterior area of buttocks and thighs to your legs. This type of pain is quite common and most people experience it sometime during their life.
It is aggravated by sitting or standing for long periods and on lifting objects. You feel it more during the end of the day possibly due to fatigue of the back muscles after the day’s work. It can develop on one side or may occur on both sides of the backbone.
Burning back pain
The pain can be a burning back pain with tingling and numbness in the legs (like pin needle pricks). Burning pain means a feeling of warmth or heat in the area of the back. It is usually accompanied by tingling and numbness in the legs.
The posterior pelvic pain
The posterior pelvic pain is located deep within your buttocks and thighs. It is also aggravated by physical activity such as walking, climbing the stairs, getting up from a low chair, bending forward over the working desk or while turning over in the bed – any activity that involves the use of the gluteal muscles (muscles of the buttocks and upper thighs).
Risk factors: Who is likely to suffer from pregnancy back pain?
The following factors make you a potential candidate to suffer from pregnancy back pain:
- If you have had back pain during your previous pregnancy
- If you have suffered from back pain even in the absence of pregnancy
- If you are carrying twins
- If you lead a sedentary life without much physical activity
- If you suffer from osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
- If you are unusually stressed out due to being pregnant. Anxiety and stress cause tightening of the muscles including those of the back making them more prone to cause pain
How to relieve back pain during pregnancy? Effective natural remedies
There are various ways to ease or relieve lower back pain during pregnancy. Since medication is taboo for fear of causing defects in the baby, natural remedies are good options because they work.
Basically, it is all about:
- Proper nutrition
- Massage or heat and ice-cold packs
- Proper exercises to strengthen your back muscles
- Correct posture
- Giving yourself proper rest and sleep the right way
- Practicing meditation to reduce stress
- Acupuncture and chiropractic care
Proper nutrition during pregnancy
That you require additional and more nutrients during your pregnancy is obvious for the reason that you’re feeding not just yourself but also your growing baby. Proper intake of the right foods will make your muscles strong and minimize your back pain.
What you require is a properly balanced package diet containing all the nutrients and micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. And, be sure to get in some additional calories too. You’re going to need them for some energy. And again, avoid junk foods; they are not going to help.
Drink 8 to 10 glasses every day.
Your diet should contain foods that give you proteins, carbohydrates, iron, calcium, and folate (folic acid). These are particularly important during pregnancy.
The following foods will give you that and more:
Whole grains, a variety of vegetables, fruits, chicken, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products and nuts.
Maintain proper posture while standing, walking and sitting. It simply means standing and walking with a straight back, holding your chest high, an upward chin, and relaxed shoulders. This will keep the back muscles in the neutral position.
Prenatal massage or heat and ice-cold packs
Prenatal massage and hot and cold compresses will relax and reduce inflammation. They help in cases of muscle strain but are of not much help when the back pain is severe.
Proper shoes and slippers
- Avoid high heels and flats
- Wear footwear that has low heels and that support the arch of your feet well
- It is important that you feel comfortable when you wear the footwear
Proper sleeping posture
Sleep on your side and avoid sleeping on your back or stomach. Place a pillow between your bent legs at knee level. If you feel comfortable, you could place a pillow beneath you at abdomen level.
Exercises form the most important part of your back pain remedy and they are nothing special. Take the consent of your gynecologist and take to regular physical activity such as walking and water exercises.
Water exercises, simply done, include walking with a straight back on your feet (not toes) in waist high water. It is great for your back muscles.
Your physiotherapist can also advise you on some stretching exercise to tone up your muscles.
Prenatal yoga is another great way to tackle your back pain. It improves the body posture, reduces emotional stress with deep breathing exercises, gives you a good sleep and relaxes not only the mind but also the muscles.
Swimming, most experts agree, is the best exercise for pregnant women. It decompresses your spine and tones up the muscles of your legs, arms, and back and strengthens the core muscles. Swimming the breaststroke will strengthen the chest and back muscles.
Alternative and complementary therapies
Acupuncture and chiropractic treatments can provide relief to some women. Discuss your problem with the chiropractor or acupuncturist and don’t forget to tell him that you are pregnant.
Does pregnancy back pain go away? If so, when?
The good news is that back pain during pregnancy goes away after giving birth to the baby. But, it is replaced by the post-partum back pain.
The levels of the hormone relaxin, which were raised during pregnancy to loosen up the pelvic muscles and ligaments, return to normal about three to four months after delivery. That is when most pregnancy-related back pain problems subside.
When to worry and see the doctor about pregnancy back pain?
Some back pains during pregnancy can be dangerous due to reasons that can harm your pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following warning signs:
- Very severe or a killer back pain may not just be due to the tug on your back muscles by the expanding uterus. Severe back pain has some serious causes and you should get it investigated.
- If the back pain is due to a trauma or fall
- Numbness or tingling can be due to the pressure on the spinal nerves emerging from the spine. It could be due to a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. If the pressure on the spinal nerve is not released or left untreated for a prolonged period, it can lead to permanent disabilities.
- Loss of bladder and bowel control could indicate a complication of back pain. It is called cauda equina syndrome in which a bunch of nerves emerging from the lower back gets compressed due to a serious pathology in the backbone. This must be treated promptly.
- If you have osteoporosis.
- Moderate to severe pain of more than six weeks duration could be due to another serious underlying cause and not just due to pregnancy
- Accompanying vaginal bleeding can indicate a placental issue or a premature rupture of the waters or some other problem with the pregnancy
- Accompanying fever could be a sign of some serious infection
- Burning urine can indicate urinary tract infection
- Dull ache across your lower back or along the sides between the ribs and hips could be a sign of a kidney or bladder infection
The myth: Pregnancy back pain indicates baby’s gender – boy or girl
Back pain during pregnancy is an indication of the gender of the baby (boy or girl) is a myth. There is no connection and you could be born with a handsome baby boy or a beautiful baby girl with back pain during your pregnancy period.