What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy?

By Maria Magher
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Lower back pain is a common complaint of pregnancy, and it can be caused by many changes that are taking place in the body, such as shifting posture or relaxing ligaments. Lower back pain is typically easy to spot since, as its name suggests, it involves an ache or pain in the back. However, more subtle signs and symptoms may appear as a result of back pain.

Back Pain Symptoms

Lower back pain in pregnancy can present as a dull or a sharp ache, and it can last for a few minutes or a few hours. Other signs and symptoms of lower back pain during pregnancy may including numbness, tingling, muscle spasm or tenderness. You may also experience shooting pain in your hips, one or both legs, or one or both feet. Most women who have lower back pain in pregnancy will experience general discomfort. Severe pain that restricts movement may be a sign of a serious problem.

Causes of Back Pain

Many physical changes during pregnancy can cause lower back pain. Hormonal changes that allow the ligaments in the pelvis to relax can cause ligaments in your spine to relax as well, weakening the support your spine provides. Lower back pain is most common in the second and third trimester as you gain weight, which puts more pressure on the spine and causes your center of gravity to shift, changing your posture. As your womb grows, your abdominal muscles also separate, which further weakens the support for your spine. Emotional changes can also contribute to back pain. Stress from work, your relationship or simply the changes you anticipate with becoming a parent can cause muscle tension, which can lead to back pain.

Relief for Back Pain

Exercising can help strengthen your muscles and provide more support to reduce back pain. Consult with your doctor about safe options, such as walking and swimming. Maintain good posture when walking or swimming, and put a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side. Avoid lifting anything heavy, wear supportive shoes, and take breaks as you can to take the pressure off your spine. A quality support belt worn around your belly can also relieve back pain. Alternating hot and cold compresses may provide relief to sore muscles, as can a warm bath. If stress is causing tension that creates back pain, a massage, acupuncture, meditation or even counseling may provide some relief.

Signs of a Problem

In some cases, lower back pain during pregnancy may be a sign of a problem, particularly in early pregnancy. For example, lower back pain can be one symptom of an ectopic pregnancy. If you notice other symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, nausea, fatigue or pain in your shoulder or neck, you should call your doctor. Symptoms such as high blood pressure, swelling, headache, nausea and shortness of breath accompanying lower back pain may indicate preeclampsia. If you have persistent back pain that is not relieved by one of the treatments listed above, or if you have a fever, swelling on your back, numbness in your pelvis or buttocks, difficult urinating or incontinence, you should call your doctor.