Back Pain in Pregnancy: Is it Inevitable?

By Lindsey Johnson
Woman looking at pregnant stomach in mirror

Back pain is one of the most common complaints of pregnancy. Cedars-Sinai reports that 50% to 80% of women experience some back discomfort during gestation. Is it inevitable? How can you prevent it and treat it? When should you talk to the doctor?

Why is back pain in pregnancy so common?

Hormonal changes in pregnancy can contribute to physical discomfort. The hormones progesterone and relaxin do just that — relax the joints and ligaments in the pelvis. As you and the baby grow, the extra weight changes your center of gravity and alters posture. These physical changes can put extra strain on the back, particularly if you had pre-existing back pain.


Do your best to get into good physical shape before pregnancy, if possible. Staying active throughout pregnancy can not only help prevent back pain but can also help prime the body for delivery. Talk with your provider about the right exercise program for you, including movements that can help strengthen the core.

Wear supportive shoes. While heels may have been a pre-pregnancy staple, do yourself a favor and move them to the back of the closet for now. Besides contributing to back pain, heels can make you unsteady with your changing center of gravity. Invest in shoes with good support and comfort.

Focus on good posture. Doing your best to maintain a healthy posture when sitting and standing will help prevent discomfort. Start this from the beginning of pregnancy so you can easily adjust as your belly grows and the likelihood of back pain increases.

Use proper body mechanics. When lifting something from the floor, squat carefully instead of bending at the waist to grab it. Sleep on your left side, using a body pillow or pregnancy pillow if desired. Resting a pillow between your knees will alleviate some of the strain on the low back.


Wear a support belt. Many women find that pregnancy support belts worn underneath the belly help remove some pressure from the back. These are most helpful when worn throughout the day as prevention.

Use ice, heat and massage to help ease tension. A combination of the three may be the most effective. Professional massage and chiropractic adjustment are helpful tools for some women, if approved by your provider.

Take a pain relief medication that has been cleared by your provider. Follow instructions closely and do not take more than advised. Spend some time with your feet up. Find a comfortable place to sit and prop your feet up throughout the day. Take some pressure off your back and give your body periodic breaks.

When to call a doctor

While nagging achy back pain is a common symptom, it’s always best to let your provider know of any pain you experience. If back pain is intense, sudden, accompanied by cramping, bleeding, painful urination or a fever, call your doctor immediately. These could be an indication of something more serious, such as preterm labor.

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