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Back Pain in Pregnancy

Why is back pain so common in pregnancy?

One of the most common complaints during pregnancy is back pain. In fact, it's estimated that more than half of all pregnant people have some degree of back discomfort. Most back pain is related to the physical changes that happen during pregnancy, including hormones, changes in the center of gravity, and posture. Unfortunately, it typically gets worse as pregnancy progresses.

What causes back pain during pregnancy?

Throughout pregnancy, hormones affect a person's muscles and joints. The hormones relaxin and progesterone relax muscles and loosen ligaments and joints, especially in the pelvic area. The extra weight and body changes in pregnancy along with these loosened joints and ligaments can cause discomfort and even lead to injury. 

As your uterus grows and becomes heavier, your center of gravity changes. This can lead to problems with balance and the potential for falls. The weight of your baby and weakening of belly muscles pulls your lower spine forward, adding strain to back muscles. Many pregnant people respond by leaning back in an awkward posture. This increases back strain and pain.  

What can you do?

Some back pain can be prevented: 

  • Try using correct body mechanics. For example, if you need to pick something up, squat down, bending at your knees and keeping your back straight. Try not to bend over from your waist. 

  • Use good posture when sitting or standing and do back-strengthening exercises. Ask your healthcare provider about back exercises that are right for you.

  • Don't do activities that strain the back, like lifting and moving heavy objects.   

  • Wear shoes that provide good support.

  • Sleep on your side with pillows between your knees for support.

  • Apply heat, cold, or massage to the painful area.

  • If you are having discomfort, talk with your healthcare provider. Back pain relief may need rest, supportive garments, or other types of treatment.

Prevention and treatment of back pain are important to prevent injury and to decrease the chance for long-term or chronic back pain. Because back pain in pregnancy can be a symptom of more serious problems, like preterm labor, always talk with your healthcare provider if symptoms are severe or last longer than 2 weeks.     

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
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