Congratulations! You’ve embarked on an exciting, challenging and life-changing adventure ahead.
Whether you’re in the early stages of the first trimester, or towards the ‘light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel’ 8.5month mark, back pain is a common complaint during pregnancy. Here are a few key things you should know:
Back pain in pregnancy: what causes it?
As your belly grows, your centre of gravity shifts forwards, causing increased load as well as an increased arch in the lower back for many women. Your abdominal muscles become lengthened as your baby grows, which makes it much harder for them to provide the ‘corset of support’ they normally would for your trunk and lower back.
Hormonal changes cause the ligaments in your pelvis to relax, which is great for the birth process, but can be a contributing factor to low back pain in pregnancy. Increased body weight means additional load on muscles and joints
Where might I feel the pain?
Everyone experiences different symptoms during pregnancy, but the most common areas of pregnancy related back pain are centrally around the spine of your lower back, over the back of the pelvis or sacrum, around the pubic bone, in the buttocks, or pain radiating down one or both legs. If you experience loss of sensation in your groin, or legs, weakness in your legs, or difficulty with bladder or bowel sensation/control, contact your obstetrician or doctor as soon as possible.
What can I do about it?
- Aim for good posture – stand up tall and try to keep your tail bone tucked under. this may be difficult when you get tired, so take regular sitting breaks, or walk around to take a break if sitting is uncomfortable or not an option.
- Wear decent shoes – thongs won’t do you any favours! As you and your baby grow, your feet now must support a bit of extra weight, and when your feet become fatigued, you’ll feel the effects much further up. Sneakers or supportive, comfortable shoes will avoid tired feet and legs, which will help you hold better posture for longer.
- Keep active! Firstly, consult your obstetrician for guidance on what limitations you should abide by during pregnancy. For many women, keeping active in a familiar way can assist your body to cope with the changes that come with growing a baby. Do NOT take on a completely new, high intensity program of exercise, but if you’re looking for some guidance, walking, pre-natal yoga/pilates and water based exercise can be suitable for the duration of your pregnancy. Staying active can delay or reduce back pain, as it helps to stretch out your body and keeps you feeling more energised. Sitting a lot (“resting”) will often make you feel more stiff and sore in the long run.
- Sleep with support – a body pillow may be your new best friend as your belly grows. A body pillow is the equivalent of 2-3 normal pillows connected end to end. Position it along the length of your body, to provide support for your top arm, belly and top leg. This avoids uncomfortable positions with your belly getting in the way, or sleeping on your back (not-recommended). If you can’t get hold of a belly pillow, trial using a pillow under your belly, between your legs and behind your back for a similarly comfortable, supported nights sleep.
- Change your limits – your body is busy growing a human, and it won’t be able to do everything that it used to do. Lifting should be done with a little more thought and care, and sometimes dividing heavier loads will make a big difference. There are no specific rules on this, other than be sensible, and don’t be a hero. The sooner you start to listen to your body and realise this, the better you will be able to adjust to the later stages of pregnancy. This does not mean you have to be wrapped up in cotton wool, but you need to be aware of what your body is happy to do.
- See your physiotherapist – they are trained to provide treatment to ease the pain, as well as provide valuable advice that is specific to your situation and symptoms. There may be some simple changes that can make a big difference to your level of comfort, so if in doubt, call to find out more.