Intense lower backaches

Backaches during pregnancy are extremely common – estimates for how many women experience back pain at one point or another during pregnancy range from half of all women to three-quarters.

Lower back pain in particular often happens between the fifth and seventh month of pregnancy, though it can begin earlier or later, and generally happens because of changes in your hormones and center of gravity, as well as in response to the added weight your body is carrying.

Lumbar pain

Most lower back pain during pregnancy comes from stress on the lumbar spine, which is the place where the spine curves in. Added weight and the relaxation of tendons because of the increase of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy can pull the lumbar spine further forward than usual, putting stress on the spine and shifting the center of gravity.

Lumbar pain generally goes away after pregnancy, as does most back pain that wasn’t present before pregnancy.

Lumbar pain generally centers around the middle of the lower back, above the waistline, but can reach up along the spine or down into the sacrum and upper thighs.

Tips for dealing with lower back pain

Lower back pain is common, but it’s also generally manageable – if you’re having trouble managing lower back pain, or if it doesn’t subside for more than two weeks, that may be a sign that it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider.

  • From the ground up: Shoes with good arch support can support posture that helps to ward off back pain, as can wearing shoes with low heels instead of total flats. High heels can also add to back pain
  • Start the day off right: Sleeping on your side, rather than your back, can also help by reducing the stress and the weight for your spine to support. Using pillows between your knees, under your stomach, and behind your back can also help to better distribute weight when you’re lying down
  • Hot and cold: Both heat packs and ice packs can be helpful for relieving back pain, as can massage. Heat is generally better for longer-term pain, while ice can be helpful when pain first pops up. Heat packs or short, warm baths can help soothe longer-term back pain well
  • Take a chance: Certain ways of dealing with maternity back pain, like support belts or chiropractic work, may not have been necessarily proven to work scientifically, but many women still find them helpful

When to talk to your healthcare provider

Lower back pain during pregnancy is both common and generally relatively harmless, though it can be frustrating. Sudden, intense lower back pain can be a sign of preterm labor though, especially if you are at a higher risk for preterm birth, or the pain moves in waves, like contractions.

Other symptoms that occur beside lower backaches can also be signs of potential complications, and should prompt a call or visit to your healthcare provider. These include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Fever
  • A burning feeling during urination
  • Your back pain does not respond to pain relievers
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Sudden changes in bowel or bladder control
  • “Back Pain During Pregnancy.” ACOG. FAQ115 from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Jan 2016. Web. Accessed 6/28/2017.
  • Stephen P Montgomery, MD. “Types of Back Pain in Pregnancy.” Spine-Health., Dec 2009. Web. Accessed 6/28/2017.
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