50 to 70 percent of pregnant women experience back pain of varying degrees, particularly posterior pelvic pain and lumbar pain. It usually starts during the second half of the pregnancy and can worsen as the pregnancy progresses. This pain can be felt as a deep pain around the area of the lumbar vertebrae.
Causes of backaches
Back pain during pregnancy can be due to a number of factors. Women who had prior back pain before pregnancy or are overweight face higher risks of back pain. These are the other more common causes of back pain or discomfort during pregnancy:
- Hormonal changes: When hormones are released during pregnancy, ligaments in the pelvic area soften and joints become looser to prepare the body for the birthing process. This change can affect the support of your back even in daily activities.
- Additional weight: Weight gain creates additional weight that your back needs to support.
- Stress: Having a baby is a life-changing experience, and this can result in additional stress for the new mother. When stress is accumulated in weaker areas in the body, you may experience increased back pain.
How to prevent backaches
It is tempting to just rest in bed when you have an aching back, but it is important for mothers to get their daily stretch and exercise, so that their muscles are strengthened too. This can ease the stress on the spine. Some safer exercises for pregnant women are walking, swimming and stationary cycling. Swimming is a great exercise for pregnant women as it strengthens abdominal and lower back muscles, while the buoyancy of the water lessens the strain off your joints and ligaments. However, it is still important for mum-to-be to check with her gynaecologist or physical therapist on what exercise is best suited for her. On top of that, research shows that women who exercise three times a week for 12 weeks during the second half of pregnancy show less lower back pain.
By being conscious of your posture, you can prevent back aches during pregnancy. One way you can make sure is to stand up straight. As the body changes, pregnant women tend to slump their shoulders because their belly grows, and this places more strain on the spine. However, do make sure not to stand for too long. If needed, rest a foot on a low stool. Do remember to take breaks and rest on your side.
Always bend from your knees to lift things. If you need to carry heavy things or reach for high objects, do not be afraid to ask someone for help. It is important to minimise the stress on your back. Also, when you get out of bed in the morning, do the “bend and push” – Bend your knees and hips as you roll to one side, then use your arms to push yourself up as your legs dangle over the side of the bed.
4. Get the right gear
Now that your joints are weaker, you should wear low-heeled shoes with good arch support so as not to stress or place unnecessary pressure on them.
5. Chiropractic care
Chiropractic care can provide relief for back pain. Chiropractic is designed to keep your spine in alignment, and this can prevent back pain associated with pregnancy. When the baby grows and gets heavier, the weight on the belly changes your posture and spinal curvature. Chiropractic treatment can help the spine keep its intended curve.
6. Maternity belt
Maternity belts can provide optimal support to abdomen and back as your belly grows. This helps to relief and reduce added weight that can cause back pain. However, you should only wear maternity belts for a few hours each day, and should still consult your gynaecologist on whether it is suitable for you and your baby.