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Back Pain During Pregnancy

As your pregnancy advances and your uterus enlarges, you’re likely to feel some discomfort. Back pain is a common complaint.

But you don’t have to grin and accept back pain as a normal part of your pregnancy. You can take steps to stop the soreness. It’s a good idea to learn these techniques now, because you’ll probably need them again later when your back is bearing the strain of constantly lifting your 7- to 10-pound baby or your 20-pound toddler.

What causes back pain in pregnancy?

At least 50 percent of women experience back pain during pregnancy. Pregnant women are prone to backaches and back pain for a number of reasons:

Extra weight. The weight you gain during pregnancy is good for your baby, but it can be bad for your back.

Change in center of gravity. As your uterus grows, your center of gravity shifts forward. Gradually— and perhaps without notice—you begin to adjust your posture and the way you move. These compensations can lead to backaches and back pain.

Your hormones. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin causes the ligaments between your pelvic bones to soften and your joints to loosen in preparation for your baby’s passage through your pelvis during birth. As the structures that support your pelvic organs become more pliant, you may feel considerable discomfort on either side of your lower back, often with walking, especially up and down stairs.

Back pain can occur at any time during pregnancy. For many women, it interferes with daily activities and the ability to get a good night’s sleep.

What can you do?

These self-care strategies can put your back on track:

Pay attention to your posture. The healthy posture that you learned before you were pregnant still applies in early pregnancy, before your uterus is above your bellybutton. Tuck your buttocks under, pull your shoulders back and downward, and stand straight and tall.

Later in pregnancy, as your uterus enlarges, you naturally pull your shoulders back farther to offset the weight of your uterus pulling you forward. This can actually cause back strain. Talk to your doctor about adjusting your posture to accommodate your growing belly.

Make adjustments when sitting or standing. Sit with your feet slightly elevated, and don’t cross your legs. Change position often, and avoid standing for long periods of time. If you must stand for a while, rest one foot on a low step stool.

Strategically place your pillows. Sleep on your side, with one or both knees bent. Place a pillow between your knees and another one under your abdomen. You may also find relief by placing a specially shaped total body pillow under your abdomen.

Avoid lifting heavy objects or children. When lifting a smaller object, don’t bend over at the waist. Instead, squat down, bend your knees and lift with your legs rather than your back. Try to avoid sudden reaching movements or stretching your arms high over your head.

Get the right gear.Wear supportive, low-heeled shoes and maternity pants with a low, supportive waistband. Or consider using a maternity support belt.

Try heat, cold or massage. Apply heat to your back. Try warm bath soaks, warm wet towels, a hot water bottle or a heating pad. Some women find relief by alternating ice packs with heat. A back massage also may help.

Stay fit. As long as your health care provider approves, an exercise program can keep your back strong and may actually relieve back pain. Some women enjoy swimming, and doctors highly recommend it—the body’s buoyancy in the water offers relief from the extra weight of pregnancy. You also might like walking or taking a prenatal exercise or yoga class. On your own, you can try an exercise called a pelvic tilt or cat stretch: Kneel on your hands and knees with your head in line with your back. Pull in your abdomen, arching your spine upward. Hold the position for several seconds, then relax your abdomen and back. Repeat three to five times, working gradually up to 10.

If these self-care steps aren’t working or your back pain is severe, talk to your health care provider. He or she may suggest a variety of approaches, such as special stretching exercises, that can alleviate pain without causing concern for your unborn baby.

Pain in your back may be a sign of a more serious problem if it’s severe and unrelenting or if it’s accompanied by other signs and symptoms. A low, dull backache may be a sign of labor or preterm labor. So, it’s best not to ignore your aching back.

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