Many women experience back pain during pregnancy: an awful lot of changes go on to prepare you for birth. A typical weight gain of 15 – 25% creates additional stress on ligaments, tendons and joints: the muscles of your back, tummy and pelvic floor are designed to move and support the joints of your back and pelvis. But as your uterus grows, it can become harder for them to do their job.
Furthermore, an enlarged uterus and increase in breast volume causes the body’s centre of gravity to shift to the front causing the female body to adapt the structures of the spine to allow the lower back to curve inwards more than it would naturally do. Changes to hormones (specifically oestrogen and relaxin) cause ligaments to slacken.
Your back is slightly protected by your baby, who acts as an internal support, but this also makes you less flexible. As your baby grows, your back will feel stiffer, and bending forward and twisting from the waist will be harder to do.
While it is fairly common, back pain during pregnancy should definitely not be accepted as just part of the process. Keeping your back in balance creates a strong foundation to help minimise any discomfort, and there are other day-to-day things you can do to protect your back during pregnancy:
If you have to lift or carry anything, hold it close to your body. Bend your knees, not your back, and try not to twist. Carry shopping bags in each hand to avoid having weight more on one side than another. Ideally use a rucksack, which helps back muscles to work better. See our recent blog which deals with this subject in more detail.
Keeping fit and supple through gentle exercise is good for you, and can help to prevent back and pelvic pain. Try swimming, walking, cycling on an exercise bike, exercising on a large gym ball, aquanatal classes, pilates or yoga. But don’t overdo it!
Stand tall! Imagine someone is pulling a string attached to the top of your head. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, and your tummy muscles will help to support your back. When sitting, tilt your pelvis slowly back and forth without moving your shoulders.
Make sure that your back is well supported when you’re sitting down. Ideally, your back should be slightly arched, with your breasts pointing straight ahead, rather than down towards your bump. Sitting upright in a dining chair will help your back more than lounging in a soft chair or sofa. (Also take a look at our recent blog link on looking after your back when you’re sitting at your desk)
Having a high body mass index (BMI) makes you more likely to develop back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Though you shouldn’t go on a diet in pregnancy, try to limit how much weight you gain. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, and exercising regularly, should help you to maintain a healthy weight.
At around the 16th week of pregnancy, sleeping on your back can make you feel faint as your baby is pressing on your blood vessels. Try lying on your left, with your knees bent up, with two or more pillows placed between your knees. This keeps the pressure off the muscles around your hips and pelvis.
Having rest is important, but so is keeping active. Sleeping or resting for more than eight hours has been linked to new mums having more persistent back and pelvic pain after having their baby.
At the end of the day, enjoy this special time. Visit us to make sure your back is in balance link to minimise the effects of back pain.