Expectant women usually suffer back pain between the fifth and seventh months of pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop such aches in pregnancy if you have experienced previous lumbar problems or have a chronic back pain condition.
According to a Yale University School of Medicine study, 70 per cent of women will report lower back pain at some point in their lives. During pregnancy, over half to 80 per cent of women report back pain.
Types of pregnancy back pain
Here are two common types of back issues you might experience while preggers.
Lower Back Pain (LBP)
Also known as lumbar pain, it’s generally situated around the waist area in the centre of the back. This type of pain increases with prolonged sitting, standing, bending or lifting objects. Soreness may be felt in the muscles along the spine during pregnancy.
Sciatica is another type of pregnancy pain which occurs when LBP happens concurrently with sharp pain and numbness that radiates down your leg or to the foot. Sciatica is caused by herniation – the bulging of an intervertebral disc resulting in nerve compression. Women who suffer from back problems before pregnancy are at higher risk of experiencing sciatica pain.
“Back pain is one of the most common symptoms experienced by expectant women during pregnancy. The main reason would be weight gain, but the hormone, relaxin, which is released during pregnancy, does play a small role in causing back pain.”
Posterior Pelvin Pain (PPP)
Occurring as a deep-seating ache at the back of the pelvis, this pain is felt at one side of the waistline or on either of both sides of the tailbone. The discomfort can spread to the posterior and back of thighs but it does not radiate below the knees. PPP is more common than LBP during pregnancy and is not linked to any pre-pregnancy conditions. Also, a previously fit and healthy lifestyle or level of fitness does not prevent posterior pelvic pain during pregnancy.
What causes pregnancy back pain?
“Back pain is one of the most common symptoms experienced by expectant women during pregnancy,” explains Dr Jessie Phoon, a consultant at the Department of Reproductive Medicine at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. “The main reason would be weight gain, but the hormone, relaxin, which is released during pregnancy, does play a small role in causing back pain.”
Dr Phoon adds that relaxin, may cause ligaments that support the spine to loosen, causing instability and pain. She also notes that back pain, particularly lower back pain, typically begins in the second trimester of pregnancy when the growing baby and expanding uterus begin in place pressure on the spine.
Dr Phoon advises, “If the expectant woman is experiencing moderate to severe back pain, she may want to seek further assessment with her obstetrician and gynaecologist.”
Other reasons why you’re having back pain, include the change in your centre of gravity, poor posture or standing/sitting position (sitting at a computer or leaning over a desk or workstation for long periods) and physical stress on the body (climbing stairs, lifting, twisting or bending).
Coping with back pain
While back pain cannot be completely avoided or prevented during pregnancy, here are six ways to cope with the discomfort.
Tip #1 Practice good posture
Stand up straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed. Avoid standing and sitting for long periods of time. When sitting, choose a chair that supports your back or place a small pillow behind your lower back. Avoid sitting on the floor or on chairs that do not have a back rest.
Tip #2 Exercise correctly
Regular exercise during pregnancy may help to keep your back strong and alleviate back pain. Use stretches and exercises approved by your doctor or to strengthen your back and abdomen muscles before and during pregnancy. These exercises are usually available at prenatal classes. Walking or swimming are also good forms of low-impact exercises.
Regular exercise during pregnancy may help to keep your back strong and alleviate back pain.
Tip #3 Wear proper footwear
Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes or footwear that does not provide adequate support. Instead, opt for flip flops. For additional help, consider wearing a maternity support belt.
Tip #4 Sleep right
Avoid sleeping on your back. Try to sleep on the side with your knees bent. Place pregnancy support pillows between your bent knees, under your belly or behind your back for extra support. It is also a good idea to elevate your legs with a pillow when lying down on the bed
Tip #5 Avoid lifting heavy items
If you must pick something up, squat down and use your legs to lift your body instead of bending down and lifting with your back.
Tip #6 Relax
Kick back and put your feet up as much as you can. Massaging and applying cold or hot compresses to the aching back also helps to alleviate pain. Take heart – pregnancy back pain is a common problem that will go away gradually as childbirth approaches.
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