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Back ache and pain in pregnancy

Tips on how to reduce back pain while you are pregnant

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 and incorrect 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 elbows are under your shoulders. Your spine should be straight and in a neutral 'box' position.
  2. Arch your back towards the ceiling.
  3. Pull your stomach muscles in and let your head hang gently.
  4. Hold this position for a number of seconds.
  5. Return your back to the neutral position in step 1.
  6. Repeat this 10 times.

Related topic

Exercise during pregnancy

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

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

Page last reviewed: 20/11/2018
Next review due: 20/11/2021