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Back Pain and Pregnancy

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 16 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Pregnancy; Ligaments; Muscles; Gravity;

Around 75% of pregnant women will suffer with back pain during their pregnancy. Most of the time the pain is pregnancy related and symptoms will subside once the baby has been born.

Occasionally the back pain may be due to other causes and may have occurred despite the pregnancy. The growing uterus and baby cause many changes in the body and back ache can be a side-effect of these changes. A difference in hormone levels can cause muscles and ligaments to become more relaxed, especially during the last few months as the body is getting ready for labour.

The weight of the baby can result in a higher degree of curvature of the lower spine, meaning ligaments and muscles must adapt and sometimes can feel strained. The centre of gravity will be slowly changing also, keeping a firm base with feet shoulder width apart will help to counteract this.

An expanding ribcage (due to organs moving to accommodate the growing baby) and the extra weight can cause stretched muscles and ligaments also.

Prevention of Pregnancy Related Back Pain

The best method of preventing back pain during pregnancy is to be physically fit and active before conception occurs. Strong abdominal muscles and a supple and flexible frame will all help prevent general aches and pains during pregnancy.When pregnant, it is important to change position regularly and rest at frequent intervals to avoid muscle fatigue and general tiredness.

The wearing of appropriate footwear, perhaps with the addition of a sacral support belt, will help to provide extra strength and stability to the spinal column.

Avoid excessive lifting; this may require suitable explanation to other younger family members, such as toddlers who will still want carrying. Encourage them to sit on your knee when sitting down instead so they don’t feel left out.

Finding a comfortable and safe sleeping position is vital in preventing back strain. Do not sleep on your back, instead sleep on the side with pillows supporting your tummy and back with an extra pillow between the knees. This will help to stabilise the spinal column also.

Recommended Exercises During Pregnancy

Any exercise that improves the flexibility and strength of muscles will be beneficial. Yoga and Pilates are very good for this. It is important however, to inform the instructor of your pregnancy, even in the early stages, as some poses and stretches may be unsuitable or even dangerous to you or your baby.

Swimming or aqua-aerobics are good as the water provides a weightless and gravity free environment which helps relieve pressure from the joints. Many aqua-aerobic classes run sessions especially for pregnant women.

Always tell the gym or leisure centre of your pregnancy and they will advise you of the most suitable programme for you. If you have had a problematic pregnancy in the past, it is essential to always check with your GP or midwife before starting any new exercise programmes.

Alternative Therapies

Chiropractic treatments are safe and useful for an expectant mother. There are many practitioners who have a special interest in the field of pregnancy and will be happy to work with you in finding solutions to your pain.

Professional massage therapy can also be beneficial, though it is not recommended in the first three months as there are a vast amount of changes occurring in the body. Always make sure the chosen massage therapist has proven certification in the treatment of pregnant ladies.

Back ache is one of the less pleasant effects of pregnancy. Women should try and prevent this occurring pre-pregnancy in order to reap the benefits later.

Remember: most back pain will subside after the delivery of your baby.

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