Being pregnant, especially for the first time, is one of those life-changing experiences that bring much joy not only to the expectant parents but also to extended family and friends. Pregnancy does, however, sometimes bring specific physical problems that may be difficult to deal with and which can also become quite concerning if the underlying cause of the problem is not fully understood.
For the most part, women carrying babies will feel healthy and fulfilled, receive excellent advice from doctors and midwives, and work on pre-natal exercises to condition themselves for the birth. In some cases, however, back pain – and sometimes quite severe back pain – will occur during pregnancy. Most of the time this is not something to be overly concerned about as it is a natural response of the body to the different demands being placed on it by a baby growing inside. Along with effectively dealing with the discomfort, it is important that the expectant mother understands why her back pain happens in the first place.
What causes back pain during pregnancy?
As with anything medical, there may be several reasons why back pain in pregnancy happens. Typically it occurs at the sacroiliac joint where the pelvis meets the spine, and it is perfectly normal for women to experience it. Here are some likely causes:
Changes in posture and weight: Pregnancy gradually shifts the center of balance, and as the bump grows it can make a real difference to how a woman adjusts her posture to deal with the additional weight. During a healthy pregnancy there is a typical weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds and this can present quite a challenge to the body. With the spine having to support this new weight, the additional pressure can cause pain in the lower back, and pressure can also be put on the nerves and blood vessels in the back and pelvis. As the weight increases, a woman’s posture may change to cope with it and this change can lead to back pain or strain.
- Changes in hormones: As a pregnancy develops the body produces a very aptly named hormone called relaxin that helps the ligaments in the area of the pelvis to relax, and the joints become looser to help prepare for the birth. This hormone can make ligaments supporting the spine loosen as well, and may lead to instability and back pain.
- Stress: Pregnancy can be a very emotional time and the associated stress can be a cause of muscle tension that affects the back. There can also be times when the physical effects of a pregnancy become quite stressful and this added stress may contribute to increased back pain.
- Separation of muscles: There are two parallel sheets of muscles – known as the rectal abdominus muscles – that run from the ribs to the pubic bone. The expanding uterus may make these muscles separate along their center seam and consequently exacerbate back pain.
How can back pain be treated?
Medication may seem to be an obvious answer when it comes to dealing with back pain during pregnancy, but that will require a trip to the doctor to discuss what is likely to be safe to take when pregnant. However, there are other quite effective treatments available that will not require the use of prescription or over-the-counter medications.
- Posture improvement: Simply sitting up straight and pushing the shoulders back can be quite effective in dealing with back pain. Slouching increases pressure on the back, so when sitting for long periods of time using a rolled up towel placed behind the back for support can be quite effective. When sleeping it is best to sleep on the side with a pillow between the knees rather than on the back.
- Exercise: Exercises to strengthen muscles in the back and abdomen can be a safe and simple way to help ease back pain. Simple exercises such as swimming and walking can help ease spinal stress and boost flexibility.
- Seeing a chiropractor: A chiropractor manipulates the spine to help people who have back pain, and in most cases this will be safe for pregnant women when performed correctly. Visiting the Healthquest Chiropractic in Detroit website is a good starting point for advice and information, though the primary care physician should also be consulted before any treatment is administered.
Back pain after pregnancy
Back pain can continue following birth, but this is normal and can usually be dealt with quite easily. The pain may derive from poor posture when breastfeeding, a long labor where muscles that aren’t often used are put under a lot of strain, or the hormonal changes that have happened during the pregnancy. Light exercise and working on good posture can help address post-partum back pain.
Pregnancy is natural and, for some, so is the back pain that can be associated with it. Maintaining good health and taking just a few simple steps to naturally reduce the pressure and strain on the back will serve to help the pregnancy and its aftermath be enjoyed to the fullest.