Easing Your Back Pain in Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
There are many causes for back pain during pregnancy. Usually, it’s caused by straining the back muscles. When your uterus starts getting heavier in mid-pregnancy, your center of gravity starts to change. In turn, this causes your posture to change. Normally, during late pregnancy women start leaning backwards, which causes their back muscles to start working harder.
If you have weak abdominal muscles, this can also lead to back pain. Your abdominal muscles are what normally support your spine, and keep your back healthy. When you’re pregnant, these muscles stretch and can start to weaken, leading to back pain. This also makes you more likely to be injured during exercise.

Your pregnancy hormones may also lead to back pain. In order for your baby to pass through your pelvis, a pregnancy hormone starts relaxing the ligaments in a mother’s weight-bearing pelvis joints. This makes her joints more flexible, but if they become too mobile, this could also lead to back pain.

Preventing back pain

To help prevent back pain, make sure you’re conscious of how you move, sit and stand during pregnancy. These tips may help you:
  • Wear a low-heeled shoe with good arch support (not flats)
  • Put a board between your mattress and box spring if your bed’s too soft
  • If you have to stand for a long period of time, rest one foot on a box
  • Use a small pillow behind your lower back when sitting, or choose a chair with good back support
  • Don’t bend at the waist, but rather squat, bend your knees and keep your back straight
  • Sleep on your side with 1-2 pillows between your legs

Easing back pain

If you have back pain already, there are some things you can do to help ease the pain. Massage the area or try applying cold or heat to the area. You may also find that back exercises help. These exercises will help stretch and strengthen the muscles that support the legs and back, promoting good posture. This helps to keep your upper body, hips, abdomen and back muscles strong.

Exercise not only helps with back pain, but may also help you with labor and delivery. If you’re active during your pregnancy, it can help with back pain. Walking and water exercise are safe for pregnant women, and great things to do for the back.

Should I call my doctor?

If you’re having severe back pain, or that pain hasn’t let up for more than two weeks, call your doctor. You don’t want to treat yourself. Back pain may be a sign of another problem, like preterm labor. You’ll also want to call your doctor if you’re having vaginal bleeding, burning during urination or a fever.

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