It is true. You’re not just imagining it! There are so many pregnant women! In Michigan, the long winter has a side benefit of higher conceptions during the winter months, which means lots of fall babies.
Pregnancy is an exciting time for you, your family and friends, but the changes in your body can increase the pressure on your spine and cause back pain, particularly low back pain. You are definitely not alone. Most women (between 50 and 80%) experience back pain during pregnancy. Typically, lower back pain hits its peak beginning in the 7th month.
This article addresses the reasons for low back pain and some preventive measures. A future post will be about available treatment for pregnancy-related low back pain.
Reasons for low back pain include:
- Weight gain. It is healthy and necessary to gain an appropriate amount of weight during pregnancy, but your back takes the brunt of that extra weight.
- Posture changes. When you are pregnant, you may inadvertently be shifting your posture, which can contribute to low back pain.
- Hormone changes. The culprit is a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin allows the ligaments in your pelvis to relax and makes the joints looser. This effect is to prepare your body for childbirth. But, the down side is that the relaxin can cause the ligaments that support your spine to loosen, and this can lead to pain.
- Muscle separation. The uterus expands as your pregnancy progresses, and there are two planes of muscles called the rectal abdominis muscles, which can separate from the expansion.
- Stress. Often people physically take on stress in their body, bringing on muscle tension, which can lead to pain or spasms. Although pregnancy can be exciting and joyful, it is not without stress, as you contemplate the changes in your lifestyle and the time and financial commitment that being a parent entails.
How to Prevent Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy
- Monitor your weight gain. Pregnancy is not the time to diet. You need more calories to sustain yourself and nourish the growing baby. But pregnancy is also not the time to say to yourself, “My maternity clothes are so roomy. I’ll eat whatever I want!” Overindulging and allowing a really large weight gain will put added pressure on your back. If you can, try to find a balance of proper eating.
- Practice good posture when standing. Stand up straight. Keep your shoulders back. Try not to slouch or to lean back. Keep your feet apart. If you are forced to stand for a long time, rest one foot on a low stool or a low step. Take breaks.
- Wear shoes that help your posture. Those spike heels go back in the closet! It’s time for comfortable, low-heeled (not flat) shoes with really good support, especially in the arches.
- Practice good posture when sitting. Think about where you sit the most. Your favorite couch may not be the one that encourages good posture. You need an upright seat that gives you good firm back support. Experiment with pillows behind your back. Also look for an ottoman or footstool for you to place your feet on.
- Be extremely careful when you lift anything. First consider not lifting and asking somebody else for assistance. But, if you must lift, even something small, squat down and lift with your legs. Don’t bend at the waist. Remember, even taking the dishes out of the dishwasher is light lifting. Bend the knees, not the waist.
- Try to stay active. Regular physical activity is important for anybody with back issues and pregnant women still accrue the benefits of an active lifestyle. If your obstetrician gives the ok, consider regular gentle exercises. Walking and swimming are excellent choices. Also, any exercise regimen like very gentle yoga or pilates where you can stretch can be beneficial as well.
IMPORTANT NOTE: ANYTIME you are ever concerned that the feeling or sensation you have while pregnant is questionable, call your obstetrician immediately. Pain accompanied by vaginal bleeding, fever or burning during urination may be very serious. If this occurs, contact your obstetrician immediately.