Back pain in pregnancy - Back pain

Back pain is common in pregnancy. It is caused by changes to your body to accommodate your growing baby. You can change and support your posture to help improve lower back pain.

When to get help

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP or midwife if:

  • your back is very painful and affecting your quality of life

You may be referred to a physiotherapist.

Urgent advice: Contact your GP urgently if:

you have back pain and you:

Causes of back pain in pregnancy

Back pain is caused by changes happening to your body to accommodate your growing baby.

These changes include:

  • your posture changing to accommodate the increased weight you're carrying
  • changing hormones - these can make your pelvis and back feel weaker
  • more pressure and less support for some joints in your back and pelvis
  • tiredness and stress - these can intensify any pain or discomfort in your body

How to reduce back pain in pregnancy

Being aware of your posture and trying to improve it can reduce your risk of back pain.

Do

  • think about your posture when you are sitting or moving

  • avoid standing for long periods of time

  • tuck your hands under your bump for support if you have to stand for long periods

  • keep the weight even between your two legs - avoid shifting your weight to the left and the right leg

  • wear comfortable, supportive, low-heeled shoes

  • sit with your bottom against the back of a chair and sit up tall - put a small cushion at your lower back if needed

  • get all the sleep you can - this can help reduce pain

  • stay active with gentle exercises and stretching

Don't

  • do not lift heavy objects - if you need to lift anything, bend your knees and keep a straight back

Correct posture during pregnancy

Correct posture in pregnancy can help to improve back pain

Keep changing your posture

Change your position often to avoid over-stressing your joints.

You can also practice improving your posture by following these steps:

  1. Keep your knees soft.
  2. Stack your pelvis under your rib cage.
  3. Tilt your pubic bone and breastbone towards each other.
  4. Roll your shoulders back and down.
  5. Tuck your chin.
  6. Keep the back of your neck long.

Do a back exercise

You can try the following exercises.

Child's pose

This exercise helps to relieve the pressure on your back. It give the joints and muscles of the lower back space to open and lengthen.

Image showing lady on all fours with knees bent and hands forward

  1. Kneel on the floor, with your knees spread wide and your feet in close to each other. This allows space for your baby bump.
  2. Now allow your bum to sit right back onto your heels. Place a cushion at your heels if it feels more comfortable.
  3. This should feel like a relaxing, comfortable stretch in your low back.

Cat/cow

This exercise will help strengthen the abdominal (stomach) muscles that can support and ease back pain during pregnancy.

  1. On all fours, make sure your knees are under your hips and your hands are under your shoulders. Your spine should be straight and in a neutral 'box' position.

Cat-Cow-hollow.jpg

2. Hollow your back as shown in the image above.

3. Then follow this with a rounded spine, as shown in the image below.

Image shows lady on all fours with a rounded back

4. Feel a stretching sensation along all parts of your spine as you push your back up towards the ceiling.

5. Breathe comfortably and hold this position for 20 seconds.

6. Return your back to the neutral position in step 1.

7. Repeat this 5 times.

Gentle twist

image shows lady sat with legs crosses and body gently twisted to left
  1. Sit tall on your mat with your legs crossed. Feel both bum cheeks connect with the mat.
  2. Gently twist to the left. This should feel comfortable at all times. Keep your bum cheeks connected to the mat.
  3. Keep breathing comfortably.
  4. Hold for 20 seconds.
  5. Repeat 3 times.
  6. Now repeat this exercise, twisting to the right this time.

Side stretch

Image shows lady sitting  cross-legged, with her right arm up towards the ceiling

  1. Sit cross-legged on the mat.
  2. Place your left hand on the floor and gently point your right arm up towards the ceiling.
  3. Now gently lean towards the left side. Both bum cheeks should stay in contact with the floor.
  4. Take long, deep breaths in this posture. Gently relax into this stretch.
  5. Hold for 20 seconds.
  6. Repeat 3 times.
  7. Now swap sides and perform the same exercise, stretching to to the right.

Clam exercise

image of woman lying on her side with her knees bent and feet touching

This exercise should feel comfortable and pain-free to perform.

  1. Lie on your left side with your back flat against the wall. Bend your knees and place your feet flat against the wall.
  2. Hug your bump close to your spine.
  3. Now open and close your right knee.
  4. Repeat 20 times or until your bum muscle begins to feel too tired to lift the knee.
  5. Rest for 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat 2 more sets.
  7. Now change positions and repeat the exercise lying on your right side.

Exercise during pregnancy

Learn how to do pelvic floor exercises

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 10 June 2021
Next review due: 10 June 2024