Back Pain During Pregnancy

NASS Public Affairs Staff


Half of all pregnant women can expect some back pain. Back pain develops for two reasons. One is simply the added weight caused by the pregnancy. Another may be that the extra weight is carried in the front of the body, shifting your center of gravity forward and putting more strain on the low back. The muscles in your back may have to work harder to support your balance.

How can you minimize the discomfort?

  1. Stick with your exercise program. Find out from your doctor what abdominal and back strengthening exercises are safe for you, and how long you can maintain your regular exercise program. Swimming is an excellent way to keep fit and relieve the stress on your back from the extra weight of pregnancy.

  2. Lifting. If you have to pick something up, kneel down on one knee with the other foot flat on the floor, as near as possible to the item you are lifting. Lift with your legs, not your back, keeping the object close to your body at all times. Be careful, though - it may be easier to lose your balance while you are pregnant. Whenever possible, get assistance in lifting objects.

  3. Carrying. Two small objects (one in either hand) may be easier to handle than one large one. If you must carry one large object, keep it close to your body.

  4. Sleeping. Sleeping on your back puts 55 lbs. of pressure on your back. Placing a pillow under your knees cuts the pressure in half. Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees also reduces the pressure.

How can you deal with the back pain related to pregnancy?

Fortunately, most back pain related to pregnancy is self-limited and will resolve. In most cases, medication is not a good option. Do not use any medication during pregnancy without permission of your physician. Some treatment options include learning exercises to support muscles of the back and pelvis, using supportive garments that may be helpful with certain causes of back pain in pregnancy and using spot treatments such as heat and cold. If your pain persists despite these measures, or you develop any radiating pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in your legs, you should consult with a spine physician with expertise in women's health issues and/or pregnancy related disorders. They will be able to assist you in diagnosing and treating your specific problems.