Back pain during pregnancy is common– researchers estimate that 50 to 70 percent of women experience at it some point. It can range from an ache in your tailbone to soreness in your lower back to full-blown and debilitating sciatica. It’s worst in late pregnancy, when the weight of the baby can cause major strain. Pregnancy hormones also soften ligaments in your hips and joints, so your back muscles get less support, and makes your abdominal muscles less effective, so your back doesn’t have them helping to hold up your torso your the way they usually do. Plus your center of gravity shifts, which can strain muscles that aren’t used to being used for support.
So what can you do?
Stretch. Work out those kinks with gentle twists and arching and releasing your back muscles.
Check your posture a lot. As you sit or stand, make sure your shoulders are stacked on top of your hips, not slouched forward or swaying way back. At work, use a back pillow to support your lower back and try to position any computer screens straight ahead at eye level so you aren’t straining to look down, up or at an angle all day.
Avoid high heels. Low-heeled shoes will help you stand with less strain.
Consider a belly-support band. Some women say they don’t make a difference, others are really helped by them. Try on a few models and see.
Pick up stuff in proper form. Squat and lift objects from the floor with your legs instead of bending over and making your back do the work.
Sleep on your side and use pillows to support your knees.
For pain, use ice or a heating pad, whichever feels better. You don’t want to put a heating pad directly on your belly, but using one on your lower back is okay.
Consider swimming. It’s a great way to stretch out your back, get exercise and get a relief from gravity.
Acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol or Tylenol) is considered safe to take during pregnancy, but be careful to not exceed 3,000 mg. (six tablets) every 24 hours. Call your doctor if your pain is so severe acetaminophen doesn’t help, and call right away if your pain comes with rhythmic cramping.
Sciatica is sharp pain, tingling and/or numbness in your lower back or down one leg when your sciatic nerve, which runs under the uterus and down the leg, is compressed. This pain can be severe. There’s no standard treatment for sciatica during pregnancy, your best bet is to take pain medication as directed and do what you can to take the pressure off the nerve, by lying on the side opposite the pain.