Pregnancy Symptoms & Complaints: Back Pain and Diastasis

Your growing baby and pregnancy hormonal changes make back pain more common now. Find out what causes it and how to feel better.

What causes back pain in pregnancy?

The cliched image of the pregnant woman is a swaybacked, big-bellied creature with her hands pressed against her lower back- and, as is the case with many cliches, there's a grain of truth here. Back pain is a very common problem during pregnancy, and the bigger you get, the more your back is likely to ache. Carrying an extra 25 to 40 pounds is a strain, and your lower back is getting less support as the joints between your pelvic bones have been softening and loosening in preparation for the baby to pass through the pelvis during birth. Your shifting center of gravity causes your lower spine to curve backward, increasing the strain on your back. Bending, lifting, and twisting may make the pain worse.

Some women experience a condition called diastasis, when the abdominal muscles are separated by the growing uterus, which can contribute to backaches. This isn't dangerous to mom or baby -- though it can be painful for mom. Postpartum abdominal exercises can strengthen the muscles and usually close the separation.

Persistent backache could be a sign of kidney infection or preterm labor, so be sure to let your doctor know if the pain lingers or worsens.

What relieves back pain in pregnancy?

Put your high heels away until after the baby arrives -- they'll only aggravate the problem. Practice good posture (pelvis tucked in, shoulders back). Avoid lifting heavy objects, and when you must bend over, bend at your knees, not your waist. Sit with your feet slightly elevated, and do not cross your legs. Try not to stand for too long at any one time. When you must stand for a while, prop one foot up on a low stool to lessen pressure on your back. Sleep on your side, using a body pillow or pillows propped between your bent knees and under your belly. Gentle yoga can be very helpful for reducing aches and pains. And consider wearing a "belly bra" -- a sling made of elastic fabric that stretches across your abdomen -- to help take the burden off your back.

Copyright © 2001 Meredith Corporation.

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