If you are pregnant, and are suffering from lower back pain, there are things you can do to help alleviate the discomfort. And, if you are newly pregnant or trying to conceive (TTC), you can help ward off lower back pain by making a few changes before your body is carrying extra weight.
Keep your muscles strong
One of the main reasons women experience lower back pain during pregnancy is the weakening and stretching of the abdominal muscles. The abs and the back muscles work together to keep your trunk upright, so when one side (the abs) weakens, the other side (the back) has to do more of the work.
So, while you might think that giving your back a 9-month rest would be the best thing, responsible and moderate exercise can actually give you more relief than lying on the couch. If you are not yet pregnant, but TTC, spend some extra time each time you work out doing strengthening exercises for both abs and back, so that when you do get pregnant, you have a strong core that you can maintain during your pregnancy. This will also make delivery and recovery much easier.
If you are already pregnant, speak with your doctor about what exercises would be best for you to strengthen your abs and back while protecting your growing belly. (Swimming and yoga are both great core strengtheners, while being gentle on joints and ligaments.)
Your mother was right; you do need to stand up straight
Proper posture while standing and sitting is also very important. The front of your body is already carrying extra weight, and pulling you forward. Be mindful of keeping your alignment by tucking your pelvis under and keeping your shoulders back, which will keep your from slouching or arching your back, both of which put undue stress on the lower back.
Move around every so often
Try not to stand or sit for too long. If your job requires that you spend time in one place, be sure to adjust your position frequently. If standing, be sure you are wearing comfortable shoes with good support. This is key. The ligaments in your feet can actually stretch, and flatten your arches during pregnancy, and without that proper support in your feet, back problems can get worse. These stretched arches are permanent, by the way. I know from experience! If you sit all day, be sure to get up and walk around each hour.
Make room in bed for a lot of pillows
Your belly pulls you forward not only when you are standing and sitting, but also when you sleep. You will find that as your belly grows, the mass in front of you will tip you towards the mattress. A body pillow, or even a regular pillow, placed between your legs to align your spine can help keep your back from twisting while you sleep. When you get really big, you might even find putting a pillow under your belly helps keep your back aligned. (My husband used to call the area where I slept “the foam nest” because I had to have a certain number of pillows in just the right spots each night before I could get comfortable).
Let someone else do the heavy lifting
If you need to lift anything at all, make sure it’s light, and lift with your legs, not your back. Remember, you are already asking your body to carry extra weight, and all on one plane, so there is already strain. Avoid carrying uneven loads, (carry a light bag in each hand instead of carrying one heavy bag in one hand).
Wear a belly brace
I found a “belly bra” to be extremely helpful. It is a reinforced, Velcro band that stretches around your torso, and helps lift and support your belly. I carried both of my boys very low, and the brace really helped to keep the weight distributed a little higher. A compression bra also help with swollen breasts.
Now, even if you do ALL of these things, you may still experience lower back pain, it is a part of pregnancy for most women. I used it as an excuse to get my fair share of pregnancy massages!
Lee Trask is an advocate for women dealing with issues of infertility and miscarriage. Having struggled through more than six years of infertility, three miscarriages, and high-risk pregnancy, she is now happy raising her two children, and is focused on helping other women in the subjects of reproductive difficulties and successes.