Got pregnancy back pain or backache? Find out what causes it, when it could be serious, and how to ease your pain. We’ve got your back.
Back pain during pregnancy is most certainly a thing.
It’s super common and happens to most pregnant people.
Given everything your body is going through and your ever-growing bump, it’s no wonder there’s pressure on your back and the surrounding area.
But this doesn’t mean back pain (in any form) is easy to deal with.
And you don’t have to just live with it.
So, what’s really going on, and how can you ease back pain during pregnancy?
In this article: 📝
- Is it normal to have a back pain while pregnant?
- What does pregnancy back pain feel like?
- When should you worry about back pain during pregnancy?
- How can I relieve back pain during pregnancy?
- How should I sleep to avoid back pain during pregnancy?
- How do you massage a pregnant woman’s back?
- Backache during pregnancy: the bottom line
Is it normal to have a back pain while pregnant?
Yes. Whether it’s lower or upper back pain during pregnancy, sore hips, or aching shoulders — backaches are incredibly common.
Most people experience back pain during pregnancy starting in the second trimester.
During pregnancy, your ligaments (the connective tissues keeping everything together) soften and stretch as your body gets ready for labor.
This puts strain on your pelvis and lower back, causing back pain.
There are also a few other things going on:
It’s normal to gain some weight during pregnancy.
Of course, this means your spine has to support this weight.
Leading to — yes, you’ve guessed it — back pain.
Your growing baby
The weight of your growing little one and your expanding uterus puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in your back and pelvis.
As your uterus expands, your abdominal muscles (which go from your ribs to the public bone) might separate along the center seam.
This contributes to back pain.
Changes to posture
A growing bump changes your center of gravity.
This can change how you move, stand, and sit (often without realizing it), which results in aches and strains.
The hormone “relaxin” softens and relaxes your ligaments in preparation for birth.
This often leads to instability and back pain.
Increased stress can cause muscle tension (especially in the neck and shoulders), often leading to sharp upper back pain during pregnancy.
What does pregnancy back pain feel like?
Back pain during pregnancy will feel different for everyone.
Talk to your doctor or midwife if your back pain is getting worse and making day-to-day life difficult.
They might refer you to a physiotherapist (who may suggest helpful exercises) or another obstetric specialist.
It’s common to experience pain in the lower back during pregnancy.
This might radiate into the rest of the back or down toward your bum, thighs, and legs.
Backache could be constant or fleeting.
It could also get worse (or better) with physical activity.
You might also experience right or left-side back pain during pregnancy that only appears on one side.
This might feel like:
- A dull ache in the lower back area
- Sharp, burning pains in the lower back area
- Pain that goes from your lower back into the thighs, legs, or feet
- Pain in the pelvis that’s stabbing, dull, shooting, or burning
- Pelvic pain that extends into the buttocks, groin, or back of the thighs
You may also experience back labor pains that feel like intense menstrual cramps.
These pains will come and go (often at predictable intervals) and increase in intensity.
If you suspect back labor pains, contact your medical team straight away.
When should you worry about back pain during pregnancy?
Although unwelcome, back pain in pregnancy usually is nothing to worry about.
If you have sharp back pain during pregnancy, though, get in touch with your doctor.
You should also reach out if you’ve had back pain that lasts for more than two weeks.
Severe back pain during pregnancy can be a sign of early labor or urinary tract infections.
So call your healthcare team if you have back pain (especially rhythmic cramping pains) combined with vaginal bleeding or spotting, fever, or a burning sensation when you pee.
If you have back pain and lose feeling in your bum, one or both of your legs, or your genitals, it’s also time to call emergency services.
How can I relieve back pain during pregnancy?
Now onto the all-important issue of how to relieve back pain during pregnancy.
Here are a few tips:
- Avoid lifting heavy objects.
- When lifting anything off the floor, bend your knees and keep your back straight.
- Move your feet and whole body (rather than just your spine) when turning.
- Wear comfortable and supportive shoes to better distribute your weight.
- If you’re going shopping, balance the weight of your groceries between two bags, and swap that over-shoulder handbag for a rucksack.
- Enjoy a long bath, heat pad, ice pack, or massage. (Be careful if you’re using products like Icy Hot, though, as there’s limited research on safety during pregnancy.)
Practicing good posture also helps. Stand or sit straight and tall, with your shoulders relaxed.
If you’re standing, don’t lock your knees and go for a slightly wider stance than normal.
And regular physical activity (things like yoga or swimming) keeps your back muscles strong and relieves stress.
How should I sleep to avoid back pain during pregnancy?
Curious about how to relieve back pain during pregnancy while sleeping?
Well, it can be tricky.
First up, try to sleep on your side.
Avoid sleeping on your back and keep one or both knees bent.
Pregnancy support pillows (or even a regular pillow) are fantastic for propping up your back.
You can also place them between your bent knees or under your belly.
A supportive mattress also helps.
If it’s too soft or too firm, your hips and spine aren’t aligned — leading to aches and pains.
If your mattress is too soft, putting a piece of hardboard underneath (on top of the bed slats) is a quick and easy fix.
How do you massage a pregnant woman’s back?
Massage during pregnancy is an amazing way to let go of any stress and tension as well as aches and pains.
There are lots of easy-to-follow YouTube tutorials by certified prenatal massage therapists to explore.
As a rule of thumb, avoid deep pressure and always ensure the pregnant partner is comfortable.
If you’re receiving a massage, lying on your side (with pillows supporting the bump, knees, or back as necessary) is one possibility.
Or straddle a suitable chair, with a cushion between the chair-back and their bump for support.
And if you’re giving the massage, start with deep, grounding movements (for instance, pressing down on the shoulders).
Breathing together helps keep the massage at the right pace, too.
Long nerve strokes (with the whole hand moving from the neck to the base of the spine) are great for releasing tension.
Forming fists and pressing against the hip area (just above the buttocks) also helps with back pain.
You can then continue this gentle pressure up and across the back, focusing on any areas of pain and tension.
Backache during pregnancy: the bottom line
It’s common — but you don’t have to just struggle through it.
Talk to your healthcare team about ways to find relief.
If the back pain is severe, long-lasting, or accompanied by other symptoms, get medical care as soon as possible.
The ups and downs of pregnancy can be challenging.
Know that you don’t have to navigate them alone.
The Peanut community is here for you.