There’s a lot to love about being pregnant: feeling your baby kick, ordering dessert without feeling guilty, having strangers tell you that you’re “glowing.” But pregnancy can also be uncomfortable.
Pregnancy back pain often starts early and worsens as your belly grows. This discomfort can disrupt your daily routine and interfere with sleep. What causes back pain during pregnancy and what can you do about it?
Reasons Your Back Hurts
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there are three main causes of pregnancy back pain:
- Strained back muscles: As your uterus grows and becomes heavier, your center of gravity shifts to the front of your body, causing you to naturally bend forward. To keep your balance, you may lean backward, which makes back muscles work harder.
- Weakened abdominal muscles: During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles that help to support your spine become stretched and may weaken.
- Pregnancy hormones: To prepare your body for childbirth, hormones relax the ligaments in the joints of your pelvis. This can cause back pain if the joints become too mobile.
Ways to Relieve Your Aching Back
Most pain medications are unsafe for pregnant women, including ibuprofen and aspirin. Even Tylenol should only be taken with your doctor’s approval. But there are other ways to prevent and lessen back pain.
Regular exercise during pregnancy helps keep back muscles strong. Stretching, walking, water aerobics and even some strength training are generally safe for pregnant women, but be sure to get your doctor’s blessing in advance.
Change up Your Position
Whenever possible, avoid sitting or standing for long periods. If your job requires you to stand, rest one foot at a time on a low step stool and take frequent breaks. If you have a desk job, stand and stretch often. Use a chair that supports your back or invest in a lumbar support pillow.
Be Mindful of Your Posture
Good posture helps to protect your back and prevent discomfort. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following:
- Stand up straight and tall
- Use a wide stance
- Hold your chest high
- Keep your shoulders back and relaxed
- Don’t lock your knees
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Choose shoes with good arch support, such as sneakers or low heels. Flats usually don’t provide enough support, and high heels can further shift your balance forward — leading to more back pain and increasing your likelihood of falling.
Don’t bend over from the waist to pick things up. Instead, squat down, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Talk to your doctor about the maximum weight you should be lifting, and ask for help when needed.
Don’t Sleep on Your Back
Try to sleep on your side with your knees bent. Place one or two pillows between your legs or under your abdomen for support.
Try Heat, Cold or Massage Therapy
To relieve tight or sore back muscles, try a heating pad or ice pack. A massage might also help, but be sure to tell the masseuse that you’re pregnant.
When to Call Your Doctor
While back pain during pregnancy is usually just a nuisance, it can be a symptom of preterm labor, a urinary tract infection or another serious health issue.
Discuss back pain with your doctor if it’s severe or lasts more than two weeks. If back pain is accompanied by vaginal bleeding, fever or burning during urination, contact your health care provider immediately.
Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.
Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.