If I ask you to think of a pregnant woman, you are likely to visualize a woman walking around with difficulty, usually supporting her back with one of her hands as she walks.
This vision pops up because almost every pregnant woman has some degree of backache and is compelled to move slowly and laboriously.
Backaches in pregnancy are not just painful and uncomfortable, they can also be very scary, because the pain is so close to your growing baby.
If you don’t know what causes the pain, it can cause panic.
In this article I explain what causes these backaches and what you can do about it.
What causes backache in pregnancy?
- The extra load your back must carry because of weight gain.
- The pressure caused by the weight of the baby on the nerves of your spinal cord.
- The change in your posture to accommodate your shifting centre of gravity. The weight of your growing baby shifts your centre of gravity outside your body. This threatens to topple you. To prevent that, you arch your back. This strains your muscles and causes backache.
- Hormonal effects
A hormone called relaxin relaxes the ligaments in your pelvis to make place for your baby and to allow birthing. This makes your pelvis unstable, and you must constantly contract your back muscles to stabilize yourself. This causes backache.
- The separation of the abdominal muscles.
As your baby grows, your abdominal muscles become thin and separate. This leaves the spine without its supporting girdle. The back muscles contract to compensate for this and this causes backache.
The inevitable stress of pregnancy makes you tense all your muscles. This leads to pain.
What can you do to reduce backache in pregnancy?
It is difficult to eliminate backache altogether, but here is what you can do to feel better.
- Improve your posture.
Look in the mirror and straighten yourself every day. Pull back the rounded shoulders and straighten your arched back.
- Avoid standing for long periods.
- Avoid walking for longer than 10 minutes at a time without rest.
- Sit on a sturdy, well-supported chair with a straight back and arms. If possible, use it with a footrest.
- Do not sit in one position. Take a short stroll every half an hour.
- Wear well supported shoes without heels.
- Avoid lifting heavy weights. If you must lift heavy weights, place your feet wide apart and bend your knees to take the strain off your back.
- Try some basic antenatal back exercises. The cat and camel stretch are very relaxing.
- Try to reduce your stress and relax.
- Roll onto your left side and support yourself with your hand when you get up after lying down.
When to consult a doctor for backache?
- The pain is severe enough for you to need medication.
- You have severe pain for more than two weeks.
- The pain feels like a cramp that is increasing in intensity.
Some backache is inevitable during pregnancy. However, you can limit its impact on your life through mindful, healthy living.
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD is a practicing doctor, a parenting consultant, and the founder of WPA whatparentsask.com She conducts online and offline workshops on parenting for schools and corporate organisations. She also conducts online and offline prenatal and infant care classes. She is a well-known thought-leader in parenting and an expert on play, learning and eating habits. She is the author of 7 books on parenting published by Juggernaut Books and her books are among their most read books. She is frequently quoted in national and international publications of repute for her empathetic and compassionate approach to parenting and her application of physiology and brain science to parenting.