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12 ways you can manage back pain during pregnancy

Women's Care
Aug 12, 2021

The saying is you glow when you’re pregnant. Tell that to your aching back, swollen feet and expanding waistline. Yes, it’s not the easiest nine months of your life, but it’s worth it.

To help with one very common complaint amongst pregnant women, we reached out to Brandy Aliotta, family nurse practitioner in the St. Joseph’s/Candler Physician Network – OB/GYN practice of Dr. Jessica Mullinix. Aliotta has been a nurse practitioner for 19 years and has always worked in women’s care. Brandy Aliotta, OBGYN Nurse Practitioner

One of the most common side effects of pregnancy is back pain. Unfortunately, it’s unpredictable and often unpreventable. Aliotta says most pregnant women should expect to experience back pain at some point in their pregnancy.

“It won’t last the entire nine months, but most women at some point do experience back pain,” Aliotta says. “It can happen in any trimester too. It’s not just towards the end when you are the largest. Actually some women feel their best at the very end.”

Related Article: Why would I see a nurse practitioner at my OB/GYN’s office?

What causes back pain?

There are lots of causes, Aliotta says. If you experience back pain in the first trimester, it’s most likely due to the expansion of the uterus. The uterus is naturally a pelvic organ, but by 10 weeks of gestation, it’s out of the pelvic area and into the abdomen, Aliotta explains. That weight puts new strain on your back, causing discomfort.

Also when you are pregnant, your posture and center of gravity tend to change, which can cause back pain. Additionally, when you are pregnant, your body produces additional hormones that can loosen your ligaments and make your back less supportive, Aliotta says.

Weight gain also can be a factor for back pain in pregnancy – and everyday life.

Related Article: How belly fat may be causing your back pain

So what can I do about it?

While back pain during pregnancy isn’t necessarily preventable, there are certainly things you can do to ease the discomfort. Aliotta recommends:

  • Staying active. We don’t expect you to run a marathon, but it is important to stay active and keep moving to help with the aches and pains of pregnancy.
  • Wear supportive shoes. Sorry ladies, but try to avoid flip flops and sandals as much as possible and look for some supportive, comfortable shoes.
  • Maintain a good posture. Pregnant women tend to slouch or lean too far back; try maintaining an erect posture.
  • Tylenol in controlled doses is safe in pregnancy.
  • Consider alternative medicines, like chiropractor or massage therapy. Just be sure you choose someone skilled in working with pregnant women so you are properly positioned when lying down.
  • Ask your partner, friend or family member for back and shoulder rubs.
  • Remember, you’re not eating for two. Moderate weight gain can help limit back pain. The recommended weight gain during pregnancy is between 25 to 30 pounds, or even less if you are already overweight.
  • Consider a warm bath. Hot water is not typically recommended during pregnancy, so avoid jacuzzis and hot tubs, but an occasional lukewarm soak for short periods of time is OK.
  • Heating pads are fine on your back.
  • Maternity support belts can be amazing for some women. It fits underneath the growing belly to provide counter support, taking a little bit of pressure off the back.
  • Limit any activities that put a strain on the back, like lifting and moving heavy objects. If you do have to lift something – say you also have a toddler at home – be sure to use proper body mechanics. If you have to pick something up, squat down, bending at your knees and keeping your back straight. Try not to bend from the waist.
  • Sleep on your side with pillows between your knees for support.

If you experience discomfort during your pregnancy due to back pain, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider for the best solution for you. 

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