Back Pain During Pregnancy

As your belly grows, so may your spine pain woes

Written by Harry Lockstadt, MD

About 50 to 80% of pregnant women experience back pain. Because the connection between back pain and pregnancy is not fully understood, access to the right treatment can be a challenge. Fortunately, pregnancy-related spine pain typically has a short life span—most cases go away shortly after your baby’s birth.
Pregnancy-related back pain is often localized to a specific area of the spine and not widespread. Back pain tends to arise between the fifth and seventh months of pregnancy, though it can begin much earlier.

Pregnancy-Related Spine and Pelvic Pain
Women typically experience pregnancy-related pain in the lower spine—the low back, sacrum, and pelvic regions. Pain in the pelvic region, for which a clear-cut diagnosis has not been made, is called peripartum pelvic pain. Peripartum refers to the period surrounding childbirth—typically a few weeks before birth and a few weeks after birth.

Pain presents itself most commonly in the following areas:

Occasionally, other areas of the pelvis and upper legs are affected, but rarely does pain occur below the knee. Pain tends to be influenced by posture and is associated with a waddling gait.

What Influences Pain Intensity During Pregnancy?
While age and smoking status has been not been shown to increase pain levels, higher body mass, more pregnancies, a previous history of back pain, and a previous history of pain during pregnancy have been connected to an increase in peripartum pain.

Also, younger women tend to have more intense pain when compared to older women. Studies have reported that approximately 10% of women said back pain during pregnancy prevented them from working, and more than 80% said it affects their ability to do daily tasks.

What Causes Spine Pain During Pregnancy?
The cause of pregnancy-related back pain is likely related to a combination of mechanical, metabolic, circulatory, and psychosocial contributing factors. However, most of the causes can be grouped into the following areas:

Most treatments for pregnancy-related back pain involve lifestyle modifications, such as:

If your back pain is severe and doesn’t respond to conservative treatments, your doctor may recommend a prescription pelvic belt, medication, physical therapy, injection therapy, or bed rest.

Good News
Fortunately, pregnancy-related back pain tends to go away within 6 months after birth—allowing you to focus on the much more important addition to your life, your new baby. If your back pain doesn’t subside after your baby arrives, talk to your doctor about whether additional testing or treatment is an option for you.

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