A Guide to Early Pregnancy Back Pain

Article By
Kate
Published On
14 Aug, 2023
Read Time
4 minutes

If you're feeling back pain during early pregnancy, you're definitely not alone. It's a common discomfort that many expectant parents experience as their bodies adapt to the changes that come with carrying a growing baby.

Although some level of discomfort is normal during pregnancy, it's important to stay vigilant and recognise any alarming symptoms associated with back pain.

In this blog, we'll explore why back pain happens in early pregnancy, discover what signs to look for, and cover some safe and effective pain relief options.

When does back pain start in pregnancy?

Back pain can start in pregnancy at any time. Some people experience it during the first trimester, but it's also common in the later stages of pregnancy as the weight of the baby puts more pressure on the lower back.

Back pain during early pregnancy: Why does it happen?

Back pain is a common pregnancy symptom and there are a few reasons why it happens. Let's run through the causes of pregnancy back pain one by one.

Stretching ligaments

During pregnancy, your body goes through many changes and a hormone called relaxin is produced by the ovaries and placenta. This hormone makes your ligaments stretch and soften to prepare for labour, and this can put a strain on the joints in your pelvis and lower back.

Hormonal changes

Relaxin isn't the only hormone that increases during pregnancy. Progesterone can also relax ligaments in preparation for growing the baby and labour, leading to back aches. 

Your uterus expands in size

As soon as implantation happens your uterus begins expanding, this puts pressure on your pelvic bone which in turn increases pressure on your bladder, bowel, and lower back.

Stress

The stresses of early pregnancy (worrying about the baby and dealing with morning sickness etc) can cause muscle tightness - resulting in a sore back.

Is backache common in early pregnancy?

Yes, backache is a common pregnancy symptom. Two-thirds of pregnant people experience lower back pain in pregnancy due to weight gain, posture changes and a shifting centre of gravity - all which put an added strain on the back and pelvis.

Ways to avoid and ease backache in early pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a real pain in the back, but luckily, there are several ways to ease back ache and even avoid it altogether. Let's run through some tips to help you avoid backache while you're pregnant.

Watch your posture

How you sit and stand can impact your back. It's all about finding a balance, standing for too long can put a strain on your spine, as can lounging. It's best to choose chairs with support and elevate your feet whenever you can.

Avoid lifting anything heavy

Picking up heavy objects isn't recommended while you're pregnant, and it's important to take particular care whenever you lift something to avoid back aches. You should bend your knees and squat with a wide stance if do have to lift anything - aka a toddler!

Be mindful of your pregnancy weight gain

It's totally normal to gain weight while pregnant but gaining a lot at once can put additional strain on your back.

Take regular rests

If you're walking regularly or on your feet a lot throughout the day, try to rest whenever you can to take the strain off your back. It can also help to wear comfortable flat shoes that support your feet.

Apply heat packs to the sore area

Heat packs can relax muscles and relieve pain. Soaking in a warm bath can also help soothe aches.

Move your feet with your body when turning

This will stop you from twisting your spine. It's particularly important to pay attention to your movements when getting out of the car. Turn your whole body then get out instead of just getting out with one leg first and twisting round.

Do pelvic floor (Kegel) and stabilisation exercises

Certain pregnancy exercises can help to strengthen your body and reduce the strain on the pelvis.

Book a massage

There are specially designed massages that're safe during pregnancy and can target aches and pains to help relieve any issues.

Wear a belly support garment

These pregnancy bands or belts can ease the strain and pressure on your lower back, hips, abdomen, and pelvis, even in early pregnancy.

Sleep on a firm mattress

A supportive mattress can really help ease back pain. You could invest in a new one or place a piece of hardboard under your current mattress to make it firmer to support your back.

And try to sleep on your side

This is recommended from the 24th week of pregnancy anyway but sleeping on your side with a pregnancy pillow between your knees can offer some additional support for your back.

Take paracetamol

If the pain in your back is very bad, medication such as paracetamol can help. You should always ask your GP or midwife before taking any medication while pregnant.

When should I see a doctor about backache in early pregnancy?

When you're pregnant, anything that feels out of the ordinary can be worrying, so you should always see your doctor or check in with their midwife if you're concerned, especially if you are: 

  • experiencing backache along with a fever, bleeding, or a burning sensation while urinating.
  • experiencing any pain under the ribs on one or both sides. This can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
  • in your second or third trimester and experiencing painful back aches. This could be a sign of early labour.

If you are really struggling with back pain, your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist.

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