It has been estimated that almost half of all pregnant women will experience lower back pain during early pregnancy. In fact, this pain may be one of the first symptoms of pregnancy for some women. Such back pain can caused by change of hormones, stress, extra weight and some other normal causes while it can also be the sign of miscarriage. Simple home remedies such as light exercises and massage may help relieve the pain, but seek medical help immediately if other abnormal symptoms occur.
Causes of Lower Back Pain in Early Pregnancy
During early pregnancy, there can be many causes of pain. Some of these are normal and expected while others are less common.
1. Normal Causes
- Surge of Hormones. As the placenta begins to develop, it begins to secrete hormones that make the ligaments and muscles supporting the pelvis more pliant. This may lead to lower back pain.
- Extra Weight. Weight gain during pregnancy is one of the most common causes of lower back pain.
- Stress. In addition to the physical changes and stresses that are occurring, the mental stress in early pregnancy can also cause lower back pain.
- Stretching of the Pelvis. As the ligaments supporting the pelvis begin to stretch, the pelvis begins to stretch, too. This stretching happens so the fetus can eventually move down through the pelvis more easily during the birth process. However, this pelvic stretching can also cause lower back pain.
- Postures Changes. The extra weight and ligament stretching, besides being direct causes of back pain, can also lead to changes in posture. These posture changes may be due to the change in the pregnant woman’s center of gravity. As the woman works to accommodate the change, excessive strain can be added to her lower back.
- SI Pain. Sacroiliac (or SI) joint pain is pain that occurs at the joint between the sacrum and the iliac (Hip bone) on either side of the spine in the lower back. These are the two spots where the ligaments begin to stretch as the pregnant woman’s pelvis begins to spread. Activities that may not have been a problem before pregnancy can begin to cause lower back pain in early pregnancy. For example, crossing your legs, sitting cross-legged, or even sitting, driving or standing for extended periods may begin to cause lower back pain – even if you have never had back pain in your life from these activities!
2. Abnormal Causes
- Miscarriage. A miscarriage may cause lower back pain in early pregnancy. Usually, the back pain associated with a miscarriage is more severe than with a normal pregnancy or menstrual cramps. Back pain accompanied by vaginal bleeding should prompt a visit to your healthcare provider.
- Ectopic Pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy (or pregnancy within the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus) can cause pelvic, abdominal or lower back pain – usually very severe. This pain may be accompanied by vaginal bleeding. Any lower back pain that is more severe than normal cramps should be investigated by your healthcare provider to rule out miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
Relief for Lower Back Pain in Early Pregnancy
In addition to being very uncomfortable, lower back pain can be very stressful during early pregnancy. Under your healthcare provider’s direction, there are some things you can do at home to relieve some of the discomfort.
1. Home Remedies
- Cold and Warm Compresses. Alternating warm and cool compresses on your lower back can help to relieve muscle pain and relax those tight muscles that are causing the pain. Use a cold pack for 15-20 minutes, then use a warm pack for another 15-20 minutes.
- Warm Bath or Shower. Particularly before bed, take a warm bath or shower to help relax tight muscles. A pulsating shower can also provide just enough of a massage to relax the tenseness in your lower back.
- Massage. A professional massage is a great way to relieve lower back pain in early pregnancy. Just be sure that the person doing the massage knows that you are pregnant before beginning the massage. Some healthcare providers recommend that you avoid massage during the first 3 months (or trimester) of your pregnancy.
2. Stretching Exercises
- Back Stretch. Kneel on a mat on the floor with your legs apart. Put your palms flat on the mat and go forward trying to make your stomach touch the ground between your knees. Count to ten and then relax. Repeat this stretch five times.
- Lower Back Extension. Kneel on a mat on the floor with your palms flat on the floor under your shoulders. Extend your left arm straight out in front of you as you extend your left leg straight out behind you. Count slowly to five and then relax. Do the same thing with your right side. Repeat both sides 10 times to feel the relaxing stretch in your lower back.
- Pelvic Tilt. Kneel on a mat on the floor with your palms flat on the floor under your shoulders. Your back will fall into a natural curve. Straighten your back by pushing the pelvis backward with your muscles. Relax into the natural curve. Repeat this stretch five times.
- Yoga Stretch. Kneel on a mat on the floor with your knees directly under your shoulders. Sit back on your heels. Stretch both arms forward with your palms down and attempt to touch your head on the floor. Try to keep your buttocks on your heels. Feel the stretch in your lower back as you hold this pose for 10 seconds. Repeat the stretch five times.
Here is a video of yoga poses for back pain during pregnancy. Again, before doing this, ask your doctor.
3. Supporting Equipment
- Right Shoes. Help your posture – and your ankles – by avoiding very high heels during pregnancy. As your body realigns, you will find that lower heels and shoe inserts will help your posture and improve your lower back pain.
- Firm Mattress. A firm mattress will help support your changing body during early pregnancy. If you normally sleep on your belly, you will want to change that during pregnancy. Using a full length body pillow can help support your back and relieve the lower back pain that might develop.
- Support Sling. Some pregnant women find a support sling helps to relieve stress on their lower backs by carrying some of the weight of a growing abdomen. Check maternity web sites and catalogs to find a sling that might be right for you.
4. Preventive Measures
- Rest and Sleep. Be sure to get plenty of sleep at night. You may also find that you can relieve some of the pain by sitting down several times during the day and getting regular rest periods.
- Good Posture. Because the body is changing so rapidly during early pregnancy, it is important to concentrate on standing straight and tall. As the center of gravity changes, this will be harder to do, so it is critical to get into the habit of good posture early in the pregnancy. Be sure to change position often during the day always being very aware of how you are sitting, standing or lying down.
5. Professional Help
If you have lower back pain that is not relieved by any of the other methods, it is time to ask your healthcare provider about other methods of pain relief. Medications during early pregnancy are not typically recommended or prescribed since medications may interfere with normal fetal development. However, acupuncturists or gentle chiropractors can often help relieve lower back pain associated with pregnancy. Again, be sure the alternative care practitioner knows that you are pregnant so they can alter their treatments accordingly.