Backache and pain in pregnancy

Many women experience back pain while pregnant. It is caused by different factors that affect your posture during pregnancy. You can change and support your posture to help improve low back pain.

How to reduce back pain

You can prevent back pain or reduce it by:

  • wearing comfortable, supportive, low-heeled shoes
  • not standing for long periods of time
  • sitting with your bottom against the back of a chair and sitting up tall - put a small cushion at your lower back if needed
  • tucking your hands under your bump for support if standing for long periods
  • not lifting heavy objects - if you need to lift anything, bend your knees and keep a straight back
  • staying active with gentle exercises and stretching
  • strengthening your pelvic floor
  • being aware of your posture

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


The following 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.
Cow pose back exercise
  1. Hollow your back as shown in the image above.
  2. Then follow this with a rounded spine, as shown in the image below.
Cat pose back exercise
  1. Feel a sensation of stretch along all parts of your spine as you push your back up towards the ceiling.
  2. Breathe comfortably and hold this position for 20 seconds.
  3. Return your back to the neutral position in step 1.
  4. Repeat this 5 times.

Gentle twist

Gentle twist back exercise
  1. Sitting tall on your mat, legs crossed, feel both bum cheeks connect with the mat.
  2. Gently twist/rotate to the left. This should feel comfortable at all times, your bum cheeks staying connected to the mat.
  3. Keep breathing comfortably.
  4. Hold for 20 seconds.
  5. Repeat 3 times.
  6. Now repeat this exercise but twisting to the right this time.

Side stretch

Side stretch back exercise
  1. Sit cross-legged on the mat.
  2. Place your left hand on the floor as you 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, allowing you gently relax into this stretch.
  5. Hold for 20 seconds.
  6. Repeat 3 times.
  7. Now swap sides and perform the same exercise but stretching to the right.

Clam exercise

Clam exercise

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. Now open and close your right knee.
  3. Repeat 20 times or until your bum muscle begins to feel too tired to lift the knee.
  4. Rest for 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 more sets.
  6. Now change positions and repeat the exercise lying on your right side.

Child's pose

Child's pose
  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.

When to get help

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.

Contact your GP urgently if you have back pain and you:

  • lose feeling in one or both of your legs, your bum or your genitals
  • cannot control the need to pee or poo
  • feel the pain is intense at the start of the second or third trimester - this could be a sign of early labour
  • have a fever, bleeding from your vagina or pain when you pee
  • have pain under your ribs, on one or both sides
  • suddenly need to pee very frequently

Causes of back pain

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

  • your muscles and connective tissues stretch as your baby grows
  • your posture changes to accommodate the increased weight you're carrying
  • changing hormones can make your pelvis and back feel weaker
  • there's more stress and less support for the joints in your back

Page last reviewed: 20 November 2018
Next review due: 20 November 2021