Pregnancy is amazing. For one thing, you’re growing a whole new person. For another, you’ve discovered aches and pains you didn’t know were possible. Such joy!
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On your laundry list of pregnancy discomforts, back pain probably features prominently. It’s an all-too-common side effect of pregnancy, says Ob/Gyn Amy Stephens, MD.
Here’s how to manage when it feels like your spine has turned against you.
Pregnancy back pain
It’s fairly obvious why your back hurts: You’re carting a lot of extra weight around in your abdomen. Your growing belly has also shifted your center of gravity, which can put stress on your back.
What’s more, pregnancy hormones are relaxing the ligaments in your pelvis. That comes in handy when you’re pushing the baby out, but it can lead to back pain if the joints become too stretchy.
Most of the time, back pain is just something you’ll have to deal with until after you deliver.
However, says Dr. Stephens, see your doctor if any of these symptoms crop up (it could mean something more serious, like kidney stones or a kidney infection):
- Severe back pain.
- Pain that comes on suddenly.
- Pain that’s just on one side of the body.
An ounce of back pain prevention
If you already have back pain problems, pregnancy is likely to make them worse. So if pregnancy is in your near future, now’s the time to plan, Dr. Stephens says.
Before you ditch birth control, consider taking up exercises designed to strengthen your core, she says. And people who have a BMI > 25 (have overweight) are at higher risk of back pain in pregnancy, so talk to your doctor about a weight-loss plan before trying to conceive. If you’re already expecting, save these prevention tips for your next pregnancy — and keep reading for ways to get relief this time around.
Back pain relief
If you’re dealing with pregnancy back pain, there are things you can do (besides counting down until your due date). Dr. Stephens recommends these strategies:
Treat the pain
Hot compresses can help soothe sore back muscles. Acetaminophen (like Tylenol®) is also a safe way to treat stubborn back pain, Dr. Stephens says.
Whether you’re unloading groceries or carrying a toddler, take care to lift with your legs and not your back.
Put a ring around it
Belly bands and pregnancy support belts can help support the weight of your bump, taking some of the pressure off your lower back.
It’s hard to imagine exercising when your back is aching, but regular physical activity can help keep back pain in check. (Plus, staying active can help delivery and recovery go more smoothly, Dr. Stephens adds.)
Exercises to strengthen quad muscles (in the front thigh) are good for back pain, she says. And prenatal yoga is a great way to strengthen your core.
Get a backrub
Prenatal massage exists for a reason, so take advantage! Chiropractors can also treat back pain in pregnant people.
Dr. Stephens recommends looking for massage therapists or chiropractors with experience treating pregnant patients. They’ll have the know-how to treat you safely, and they should have special equipment to accommodate your belly and keep you comfortable.
Trick out your bed
Pregnancy is a good excuse to upgrade your sleeping situation. A supportive mattress can make a big difference, Dr. Stephens says. So can a body pillow, which helps cradle your bump while you sleep.
Or place a regular pillow under your belly for support. “Just don’t lie flat on your back because that can decrease blood flow to the placenta,” she says.
Bottom line, your back probably isn’t going to feel awesome for a while. But it won’t last forever. “Typically, most of the pain goes away after delivery,” Dr. Stephens says. And when you meet your amazing new human, all that discomfort will (hopefully) be a fleeting memory.