Back Pain During Pregnancy

Is your back achy and sore all the time? We feel your pain. Read on for ways to relieve the pain and to find out when you should go to your doctor.
ByMichele Hakakha, MD
OB-GYN
Updated
Feb 2017
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Photo: Getty Images

What is back pain?
Sounds like you know! Like swollen ankles, a never-ending need to pee and the impossibility of finding a comfortable way to fall asleep, a sore back just seems to go with the territory for many pregnant women. It can be hard to tell whether it’s just standard pregnancy aches and pains or a sign of something else.

What could be causing my back pain?
It’s usually a matter of simple physics: More baby in the uterus means your center of gravity is shifting, which can make your spine curve more, resulting in more strain on your back. Plus, the extra weight makes your muscles work harder, so your back is likely to get more fatigued late in the pregnancy, especially toward the end of the day.
Sciatica is severe back pain that you’ll probably want to seek treatment for. Sometimes stomach cramps or contractions can feel like back pain, so it could be a sign of preterm labor or uterine fibroids.

When should I go to the doctor with my back pain?
If it’s mild, let your OB know at your next visit — he or she may tell you some good ways to ease the pain. If it’s severe, came on all of the sudden or consists of rhythmic, cramp-like pains, it could actually be contractions, so contact your doctor immediately.

What should I do to treat my back pain during pregnancy?
To help your back stay healthy, practice safe mechanics even early on in your pregnancy: Put away those sky-high heels (they won’t be all that comfortable with your swollen feet, anyway), make sure you’re getting enough exercise including regular stretching, and squat to pick up the stray sock rather than bending forward from the waist. Once you start to get bigger, keep pain at a minimum by exercising regularly (prenatal yoga classes can be key, as can swimming or walking). You can also try using a lumbar support pillow if you sit for long periods at a desk or in your car, or plug in a heating pad for your back (not your belly). At night, try sleeping on your side (putting a pillow between your knees can take some of the pressure off your back). And see if you can sweet-talk your partner into giving you a gentle back rub, or better yet, spring for a special prenatal massage, which can really work out those kinks. The good news is, most of the time, back pain disappears almost immediately once pregnancy is over.

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How will my back pain affect my baby?
It shouldn’t. If it’s the result of a serious condition, though, that could affect your baby, so be extra wary of any strange or severe pains, or back pain that’s accompanied by other weird symptoms.

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