How to Manage Back Pain During Pregnancy

By Anthony Mackaronis, M.D., OB/GYN at Delaware County Memorial Hospital

Pregnancy is one of the best times in a woman’s life… but most moms-to-be could probably do without the physical discomfort. Although issues such as back pain may be part of the pregnancy package, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer for months until baby pops out.

What Causes Back Pain?

ckhs-stock-images-217Back pain is a very common problem related to pregnancy. As the uterus enlarges and the woman’s center of balance changes, the back muscles often become strained as a result.

Typically, most women experience back pain during the second half of pregnancy, with most of the pain occurring across the lower back. Most back pain is musculoskeletal in nature and tends to get worse with later gestational age.

In addition to your developing baby, pregnant women experience back pain for a variety of reasons, including weight gain, stress, muscle separation and changes in posture and hormones.

What Can You Do About It?

To treat back pain, I recommend rest, relaxation, applying heat to the back only (not the abdomen) and taking Tylenol if necessary. When using Tylenol, the best rule of thumb is to follow per your physician’s instructions and the directions on the packaging. Only use enough to meet your needs.

We also encourage hydration and massage. Some chiropractors offer services tailored to pregnant patients.

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Regular exercise can also strengthen your muscles and boost flexibility, which eases stress on the spine. Safe exercises for pregnant women include swimming, walking and stationary cycling. Just make sure to get approval from your physician before beginning any new exercise regimens.

If you’re prone to slouching, learning new ways to improve your posture might also relieve stress on your back. When sleeping on your side at night, place a pillow between your knees. If sitting at a desk, place a rolled-up towel or blanket behind your back for better lumbar support and keep your feet on a small stool. Or, sit up straight with your shoulders back.

If your pain is stress-related, you may benefit from counseling or talking with a close friend or family member.

Additionally, make sure you avoid wearing high-heels and sleeping on your back. These are both dangerous for you and your baby.

Talk to Your Doctor

While back pain is a normal side effect of pregnancy, pain in the upper back or flanks could indicate a different problem. Any associated symptoms, such as fever/chills, painful urination, vaginal bleeding, vaginal pressure or uterine contractions should be evaluated by your OB/GYN.

Be sure to talk to your OB/GYN or midwife and ask questions throughout your pregnancy.

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