Backache is one of the most common problems for pregnant women. There are three types of back pain related to pregnancy:
- Low-back pain when you stand or sit
- Pain that is worse in the back of your pelvis and deep in your buttocks
- Pain in your lower back when you are in bed at night
Back pain can be caused by:
- The strain on the back from carrying the extra weight of pregnancy
- Changes in posture to offset the extra weight of pregnancy. This shifts your center of gravity forward and puts more strain on the lower back.
- Strain on the weakened and stretched muscles in the abdomen that support the spine
Although some amount of backache is normal, severe back pain is not. It can be a warning sign of infection, preterm labor or other pregnancy complications, especially when a woman also has fever or other symptoms.
What can you do to help relieve back pain?
You can lessen some of the normal back pain encountered during pregnancy by following these tips:
- Be aware of your posture.
- Try to keep your hips pulled forward and your back straight. Don't be a "sway back."
- Wear low-heeled shoes with good arch support.
- Avoid wearing high heels. They can strain your lower back muscles.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects. This can put even more strain on your back.
- If you must pick something up from the floor, squat down, bend at the knees and keep your back straight. Do not bend over from the waist.
- Split larger loads into two smaller loads. Holding them in either hand may be easier than carrying one large load.
- If you must carry a large object, keep it close to your body.
Bending and stretching
- Keep objects you need close by so you don't have to bend or stretch to pick them up.
- Be careful. It's easy to lose your balance when you are pregnant.
- Avoid standing for long periods of time, if possible.
- If you have to stand for an extended period, rest one foot on a stool or box. This will help relieve the strain on your back.
- Sit in chairs with good back support.
- Tuck a small pillow behind your lower back for extra support while sitting.
- A firm mattress provides better back support than a soft one.
- If your mattress is too soft, a board between the mattress and box spring will make it firmer.
- Sleep on your left side instead of your back.
- Tuck a pillow between your legs when lying on your side. The pillow will help straighten your spine and give extra support to your back.
- Look for maternity pants that have a wide elastic band to be worn under the curve of your belly. This band will help support the extra weight.
- Consider using special abdominal-support girdles. They can provide back support and are available in maternity stores.
Heat or cold
- Apply a heating pad set to the lowest temperature, a hot water bottle filled with warm water or a cold compress.
- To avoid excessive cold or heat, wrap the heating pad, hot water bottle or compress in a towel.
- Try gently rubbing or kneading the sore areas of your lower back. Ask your partner or a friend to help.
- Consider getting a massage designed for pregnant women.
- Medication to treat back pain during pregnancy is usually not a good option.
- Always check with your health care provider before taking any type of medication.
- Exercise can help strengthen and stretch your back muscles. It also can improve posture and strengthen abdominal muscles for labor and birth. Ask your health provider about what exercises are safe for you during pregnancy.
Last reviewed December 2013
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know you're pregnant?
Knowing the signs of pregnancy can help you tell if you’re pregnant. Here are some signs that you might be pregnant:
If you have any of these pregnancy signs and think you may be pregnant, go to your health care provider. The sooner you know you're pregnant, the sooner you can begin prenatal checkups and start taking good care of yourself and your growing baby.
Is my baby moving enough?
You'll start feeling your baby's kicks at around the 28th week of pregnancy. By this time, your baby's movements are usually well established and some health care providers recommend keeping track of these movements.
- Track kick counts at about the same time each day when your baby is active.
- Track kick counts shortly after you've eaten a meal (when your baby may be most active).
- Sit or lay on your side, place your hands on your belly and monitor baby's movement.
- Mark every movement down on a piece of paper. Don't count baby's hiccups.
Keep counting until you've felt 10 movements from baby. If baby doesn't move 10 times within 1 hour, try again later that day. Call your health provider if your baby's movement seems unusual or you've tried more than once that day and can't feel baby move 10 times or more during 1 hour.
When will I start feeling my baby move?
Popcorn popping. A little fish swimming. Bubbles. Butterflies. Tickles. These are common words used by women to describe their baby's first movements. Also known as "quickening," it's a reassuring sign that your baby is OK and growing. This milestone typically starts sometime between 18 to 25 weeks into pregnancy. For first-time moms, it may occur closer to 25 weeks, and for second- or third-time moms, it may happen much sooner.
At first it may be difficult to tell the difference between gas and your baby moving. You might not feel movement as early as you are expecting to feel it, but you'll notice a pattern soon. You'll start to learn when the baby is most active and what seems to get her moving.