If you’ve experienced back pain during pregnancy, you’re in the majority among expectant women. Major body changes—particularly weight gain and a notable influx of hormones—unfortunately make these aches par for the course. While it may be wishful thinking to hope you can eradicate the hurt completely, there are several steps you can take to ease your weary self.
An average-sized woman gaining a healthy amount of weight is going to pick up 25 to 35 pounds throughout her baby’s incubation. Imagine carrying a couple of 15-pound dumbbells nonstop—that’s a hefty load! And because a good portion of that weight is consolidated at your middle, it’s likely that your posture will change to accommodate your new center of gravity.
What’s the first step in fixing this problem? Awareness. Pay attention to your posture so you can correct slouching or overarching that may be causing you pain. If you spend most of the day sitting, make sure to sit up straight and take frequent breaks to walk around and decompress. Alternatively, if you find yourself on your feet for hours on end, take time to sit or lie down every hour or so. Limiting the time you spend in high heels will help too (although heels don’t have to be off-limits altogether).
Because bedtime posture can also cause soreness, experiment until you find a comfortable con- figuration. Side-lying is advised, and many moms-to-be go for a pillow between the knees (to help the hips) as well as a wedge to prop up the belly.
Among the other hormones racing through your system during pregnancy, the aptly-named “relaxin” hormone is present and likely to cause discomfort. This crucial hormone relaxes your joints and ligaments so they can make way for your growing uterus and prepare for delivery; however, loose joints can also lead to lower back and pelvic pain.
Because this hormone flow is natural and necessary, it’s important to look for ways to live with it rather than squelch it. Instead of popping a pill, try modifying your lifestyle. Beware of jarring activities such as horseback riding or skiing, which could damage your relaxed hinges; instead, choose walking, swimming or prenatal yoga —activities that are gentle on the joints. These forms of exercise can keep your displaced muscles strong and better able to bear the extra weight of pregnancy. Try to avoid chores and exercises that include heavy lifting or torquing the body. And of course, clear any workout regimen with your care provider before commencing.
When you need a break from persisting aches and pains, try applying hot or cold compresses to your back (not your belly), and feel free to medicate with Tylenol occasionally, as long as it’s OK with your doctor.
On labor day
Lower back contractions are common but killer—consider these techniques for managing delivery day back attacks.
• Try various laboring positions, such as crouching on all fours.
• Apply hot or cold compresses to your back.
• Use tennis balls to apply counterpressure. (This is a great task for your partner or labor coach.)
• Sit atop a labor ball and rotate your pelvis.
• If it fits your plans, ask for an epidural.
Postbaby back pain
What’s that? The baby’s here but your back is still aching? Surprise! Back pain doesn’t always end with pregnancy’s grand finale. The relaxin hormone is still present for a short time after delivery, so your joints won’t be as firm as usual. Plus, stress and exhaustion are still in play, not to mention the trials of early breastfeeding.
There’s not much you can do to control your hormones, but you can relieve anxiety by sleeping (when you can), meditating, bathing and exercising (start with walking and work up from there). A healthy diet will help you regain your energy, and that energy will assist your posture and muscle control, resulting in a stronger back.
When nursing, make sure you’re bringing baby up to your breast rather than bending down to him. A good support pillow will relieve your arms and shoulders from bearing all the weight of your ever-growing tot.