Back and Pelvic Pain During and After Pregnancy

It's common to feel a pain in the butt, ahem, during pregnancy and after birth, but the cause can vary considerably. Here's a rundown of what might be going on.

Pregnancy Back Pain
Photo: George Rudy/Shutterstock

Pregnancy is a lot of things: miraculous, joyous, nauseating, blotchy, exhausting, itchy and fun. Sometimes, however, it's a pain in the butt. And sometimes, the pain continues long after you've given birth—like a mom I know who still has pelvic pain several months after her baby arrived, and another who has shooting pain down her leg while she's pregnant.

And while that pain is not exactly normal, it's not freaky weird either. Unfortunately, it's part of the pregnancy package for some women.

Cartilage holds the two bones of your pelvis together. During pregnancy, hormones (relaxin) cause the cartilage that holds the two halves of your pelvic bone together to soften, allowing the pelvis to be more flexible. It makes sense. Your baby's head settles down and eventually passes through your pelvis; you're going to want a little give.

Unfortunately, sometimes the pubis "gives" too much and creates a gap between the bones. This is called symphysis pubis disruption (SPD). It can happen any time during pregnancy. It's not a terribly common occurrence but boy-oh-boy, when it happens, you know it. It hurts like heck, and it can continue to be really painful for months until your midwife/doctor figures out the problem and sets about helping you heal.

Some women need physical therapy, stabilization belts and pain medication to recover from SPD but most heal well within days to weeks with rest, heat, ice and maybe some Tylenol or ibuprofen (after delivery only). As the hormones that originally caused the cartilage to soften recede, the bones fuse together again, and many women go on to have other babies with no problem at all.

Another common issue is a shooting pain down the butt, which could be sciatic pain. The sciatic nerve branches off the spinal cord and runs right down the middle of your buttock (there's a sciatic nerve branch in each hip) and down into your leg. As your baby gets bigger and your uterus presses more weight on your back, the nerve gets irritated. Some women say it's like hitting your funny bone in your hip. Others describe it as a shock-like feeling. Still others just say it hurts. Plain and simple, it's a pain in the butt. If you experience it, get advice from your doctor or midwife about it.

Gentle exercise like prenatal yoga or swimming can help strengthen the muscles in your back and pelvis while easing that "baby weight" off your sensitive bones and nerves. Cat/cow pose is perfect for displacing the baby—at least temporarily—off the sciatic nerve. Try a hands-and-knees position and gently rock your pelvis back and forth.

RELATED: 3 Pregnancy Back Pain Exercises

If it hurts most when you're sleeping, roll over on the side opposite the pain. Avoid heavy lifting and standing for long stretches of time. Heat, ice and Tylenol are OK. If you need an excuse for a warm (but not too hot) bath—this is a good one.

It may be hard to see the upside of this pain in the butt, but take it from millions of mothers before you, babies are worth it.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles