Back Pain in pregnancy
Back pain during pregnancy is very common affecting 50-75% of pregnant women at some stage of their pregnancy. It’s usually nothing to be concerned about and there’s a number of ways you can ease pain and discomfort.
At a glance
- Back Pain in pregnancy is common and affects over 50% of mums-to-be
- It can be lower back pain, or Pelvic Girdle Pain
Why do I get back pain in pregnancy?
Back pain can be an early sign of pregnancy. You’re more likely to experience back pain in pregnancy if you are overweight or if you have previously had back pain or injury. As your pregnancy develops, ligaments loosen up and stretch as the body prepares for labour. This increases the strain on joints which can cause back pain. Pregnancy affects the posture as the natural curve in the spine increases as it tries to cope with the extra weight of the bump. Back pain in pregnancy can also be divided into two categories:
Lower back pain – This type of back pain is the same sort of back pain you’d experience if you weren’t pregnant and is related to the muscles, discs and joints in your back becoming strained. This could be down to weak or tight muscles, poor posture and will also likely occur more towards the end of the day as the weight of your body and baby put more strain on your muscles.
Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) – This can only occur in pregnancy and will result in a deep pain felt below and to the sides of the waistline. This pain is down to movement of your pelvis as your body produces the hormone Relaxin which helps to soften your ligaments, which will help your baby pass through your pelvis during birth. It needs to be managed differently from normal back pain.
Can I prevent getting back pain in pregnancy?
One way to reduce the chances you’ll suffer from back pain during your pregnancy is to ensure you are as fit as possible for getting pregnant.
Even if you’re not exercising much before, it’s still OK to do exercise during your pregnancy which can help to strength your back muscles and make it less likely you’ll suffer from pain as your pregnancy develops.
It's important to maintain good posture such as avoiding lifting heavy objects, balancing weight when carrying items such as shopping bags, wearing flat shoes and bending your knees and keeping back straight when picking items up from the floor or lifting.
What are the treatments for back pain in pregnancy?
Although back pain can cause a lot of discomfort, there are a number of things you can do to help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort and make it less likely that it will develop into a more long term issue:
Massage – A massage can help to work out tension and knots in back muscles which will help to alleviate the pain you feel. This is something your partner can do for you, or you could try a massage therapist.
Exercise – You can still exercise during your pregnancy and it will have multiple benefits, including helping to strengthen the muscles in your back whilst also helping to reduce stress levels in your body e.g. pelvic floor exercises.
Maternity Pillows – You can use a maternity pillow whilst you’re sleeping to help with pain and discomfort. One use for these is to sleep on your side with a pillow under your tummy.
Heat – Having a warm bath, shower or using a hot pack can help to ease pain and discomfort.
Ask your midwife if you can be referred to a physiotherapist if lower back pain or pelvic girdle pain is causing a lot of discomfort during your pregnancy.
Will my back pain improve after pregnancy?
If you had no pre-existing back issues before your pregnancy and you take steps during the pregnancy to improve your symptoms, it’s likely that your back pain will disappear once you've given birth. If you still have back pain after the birth of your baby, you can continue to try massage and exercise or see a specialist to see if there’s any underlying issues.