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.
profile picture of Michele Hakakha, MD
ByMichele Hakakha, MD
Feb 2017
Hero Image
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.

Related Video

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.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Q&A: Mood Swings During Pregnancy?

Maria Kammerer
Certified Nurse-Midwife

How to Help Your Partner Feel Baby Kick

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor

Metallic Taste During Pregnancy

Debra Goldman, MD

How to Cope With Sciatica During Pregnancy

Erin Nance, MD
President and Founder of Nance MD

Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

Paula Kashtan and Sarah Yang

Back Pain During Pregnancy

Michele Hakakha, MD

Varicose Veins in Vulva?

The Bump Editors

Will Pregnancy Change Your Feet… Permanently?

Elena Donovan Mauer
Contributing Writer

Q&A: Why Is My Hair Falling Out?

Lara Simondi