Back Pain & Pregnancy

Reasons for Back Pain During Pregnancy & Effective Ways to Reduce It

While pregnancy is an exciting time of expectation and anticipation, many women also experience some of the drawbacks of pregnancy.  One common complaint among pregnant women is back pain.  It often becomes noticeable in the last part of the second trimester, and in the third trimester. In the medical literature, you will see a distinction between lower back pain in your spine above the sacrum, and that which occurs more in the buttocks.  For the purposes of this article, we will not discern the two, but it is important to note that if the pain is not getting better, you should see your doctor.


Reasons for the back pain include:

  • There is a change in your center of gravity. As your belly grows forwards, your back must accommodate to the change in your posture to keep you upright.
  • Your body makes a hormone to prepare your body for birth. This hormone is called “relaxin,” and causes the ligaments and joints in your pelvis and spine to relax and loosen.  Unfortunately, it also results in lower back pain, and pain in the sacroiliac joints.  This loosening of ligaments and joints is also the reason for the waddling gait in pregnant women.
  • You are gaining weight. It is normal to gain between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy.  This extra weight is a combination of the growing baby, placenta, and uterus.
  • The separation of the rectus abdominus muscle. This muscle is a paired muscle that extends vertically from your breastbone down to your pubic bone and is separated at the midline by connective tissue.  During pregnancy, the paired muscle can become separated, resulting in back pain.


Now that you know what causes back pain during pregnancy, here are some ways to reduce it:

  • Exercise – One of the worst things you can do is lessen your activity when you are pregnant (unless your doctor has advised you to due to pregnancy risks and complications). When you exercise, you can keep your muscles that support your body and spine strong.  The key is to perform exercises that are safe to do during pregnancy, so that you don’t accidentally injure yourself, because remember that your ligaments and joints are looser.  Swimming and walking are good activities.  Always discuss with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program during pregnancy.
  • Use Proper Posture – Make sure that you sit up and stand up straight, and alternate between these postures to give your back a rest. Side sleeping is recommended during pregnancy, as sleeping on your back is unsafe as the weight of the growing baby and uterus, puts extra pressure on a major blood vessel.  This can interfere with blood flow and nutrients getting to your baby.  When sleeping on your side, a body pillow is recommended.  Not only will it promote proper spine alignment, it will also support the weight of your growing belly.
  • Physical Therapy – Some physical therapists specialize in treating pregnant women. A physical therapist can guide you as to when to use cold or hot packs and provide you with stretches and strengthening exercises that help reduce the back pain, for example.  Some physical therapists also have specialized training in acupuncture, which can also help with back pain.
  • Massage Therapy – Some massage therapists also take further training in pregnancy-related massage therapy and can offer you some pain reduction.
  • Use a Maternity Support Belt – This belt provides support for your pregnant belly, and also helps reduce back pain. You can find them for sale in maternity stores or online.


Kathy Lawrence has 20 years of experience as a Physical Therapist.  Kathy received her Master of Physical Therapy degree in 1999 from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Then followed up with her Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy in 2008 from A.T. Still University.  She prides herself in her focus on Healthy Aging.  Whether it’s wellness, pain management, or helping recover from an injury Kathy has been instrumental in keeping our aging population on their feet.




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