For most women, back pain is an integral part of being pregnant. For some, back pain starts in the first trimester itself. Back pain can actually be an early sign of pregnancy. Women who are overweight or have had back pain before pregnancy are at a greater risk of developing back pain during pregnancy.
What’s behind back pain?
During pregnancy, we normally gain weight. As a result, the posture and the center of the gravity of the body changes. The bulging belly can strain the muscles in the lower back. The back must support the growing weight of the baby as well, which also puts strain on the muscles.
To make delivery easier, the body releases hormones that help ligaments and joints in the pelvis to soften and loosen. In the first trimester of pregnancy, this softening and loosening can directly impact the back.
Stress can also be a factor for back pain. The apprehension of pregnancy, delivery and parenting can be too much for some people to handle. This can reflect in our body in the form of muscle pain and tightness.
What to do if you have back pain during pregnancy
- Back ache might be an indicator that your body needs some rest. So, when in pain, rest.
- Excessive stress can also be the cause of back ache. Try some relaxing techniques, meditation, pre-natal Yoga etc. The more relaxed your mind is, the more relaxed your muscles will be.
- Standing in the same position for long periods can cause severe back ache. When you are standing, try to find a comfortable stance so that you can support the whole body. If you have to stand for long periods of time, make it a point to rest one foot on an elevated position. The footwear that you wear makes a great impact on the body during pregnancy. Choose low-heeled shoes with good arch support. Try to avoid high heels during the nine months as it may increase the chances of falling.
- Care must be given to the body’s posture while sitting also. Choose a chair that supports your back. When possible, place a small pillow behind the lower back.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects. Try to seek help from others when needed. Be cautious while bending forward to lift things. Bend your knees before lifting anything. Don’t bend at the waist or lift with your back.
- Sleep on your side, not your back. Keep one or both knees bent. Support pillows can be tucked between knees, under the abdomen and behind the back.
- Try to engage in regular physical activity to keep your back strong. Gentle exercises such as walking or water exercise can be helpful. A couple of stretches may help relieve the pain. But never do exercises without your doctor’s advice. Consult a physical therapist who can show you some useful exercises.
- Try a hot or cold pack to reduce the pain. Talk to your doctor if you feel numbness in your legs or feet.
If you have severe back pain or pain that lasts more than two weeks, do not brush it aside as normal. Talk to your doctor. Back pain is typically a normal part of pregnancy. But in some cases, it can be a sign of more serious problems, like preterm labor or urinary tract infection. If back pain is accompanied by vaginal bleeding, fever or burning during urination, contact your doctor immediately.
Pregnancy is not always easy but stay positive. One day the baby you are carrying will definitely have your back!
Dr Tanya is a Director of Amtan Medical Group and Skin Lab & Beauty. Amtan Medical Group recently launched a new service model for expecting and new mothers which includes antenatal care; pregnancy and birthing education; postnatal care including home visits and feeding assistance; infant massage instruction teaching baby massage, settling techniques and sleep support; nutrition plans; mental health and wellness; health checks; and postnatal depression support. Dr Tanya is also a busy mother of two.