Pregnant women commonly experience lower back pain caused from several factors. Between 50-70% of all pregnant women report feeling low back pain at some point, most commonly after the second trimester. Most low back pain during pregnancy will resolve several months after you give birth and your body returns to a more baseline state. It is essential to consult your obstetrician regarding any health issues you experience during pregnancy or treatment options prior to initiating them.
Hormonal changes: During pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin allows the ligaments in the pelvis to relax in preparation for birth. The same hormones promote loosening of the ligaments in the spine. As these supporting ligaments become loose, they no longer function properly and can lead to muscle fatigue, joint pain, and low back pain. This hormonal change can place pregnant women at risk for developed sacroiliac joint dysfunction and pain.
Weight gain: On average, most women gain between 20-35 pounds during pregnancy. The spine has to suddenly support much of this increased weight, placing more pressure of the spinal discs and joints. This weight also can increase pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the pelvis and back.
Posture: After the second part of the second trimester, women will typically begin to adjust their posture. The expanding uterus causes a shift in your center of gravity. To avoid falling forward, it is naturally to lean backwards which can place increasing stress on the joints of the spine.
- Avoid bending over, but rather try to squat to pick up an object during lifting.
- Bed rest is generally not helpful for low back pain and may make your pain worse. Regular exercise is always important however check with your provider before starting or continuing with an exercise program. Aquatic exercises or swimming can be very helpful during pregnancy as the low gravity environment reduces strain on the body. Your physician can recommend the right exercises. If low back pain continues, a physical therapist may be very useful.
- Always try to use comfortable shoes with good arch support.
- Pay attention to your posture. Try not to slouch, as this can apply more pressure to your spine. When sitting, you may find that placing a small pillow behind your back is helpful. If you still find yourself slouching, you may want to raise your feet until your low back is as straight as possible with the least amount of pressure.
- You are encouraged not to sleep on your back during pregnancy, but rather on your side. Often times it is helpful to place a pillow between the knees.
- Wear pants with a support waistband. These can be found in most maternity stores.
- A heating pad or ice packs applied to your back may help with muscular relief. A gentle massage is often helpful as well. It is important NOT to use hot tubs or saunas during pregnancy.
If you're concerned about your back pain, contact your health care provider. If low back pain radiates into the lower extremities or you experience any weakness, you should contact your health care provider immediately.