Early Pregnancy Back Pain
Early pregnancy can be a real pain - especially in your lower back. As many as 50% of all moms-to-be experience moderate to severe backaches in the first three months of pregnancy.
Back pain in early pregnancy falls into two categories. For most women, it's a strong, sharp pain located right above their tailbone in the center of their back in the area physicians call the lumbar region. This back pain may or may not radiate down into the legs and feet. For others, the back pain occurs contralaterally and may be experienced as more of a dull ache.
What's Behind Your Back Pain?
One of the main culprits in lumbar back pain is progesterone, the same hormone that is stimulating the growth of your breasts and maintaining the placenta that connects your baby to your uterus. Progesterone's role is to prepare your body for birth, and one of the ways it does this is by relaxing smooth muscle, weakening ligaments and loosening the discs of the vertebra joints in the spine to accommodate your growing baby.
Interestingly, ligaments all throughout your body are loosening; even those that have nothing to do with giving birth. That's one reason why many women notice that their feet grow larger during pregnancy. Fifty percent of the mothers of this world now wear shoes that are half a size or even a whole size larger than they did before they got pregnant.
Another factor in lumbar backache is that your swelling abdomen is now your center of gravity. Without noticing it, you have adjusted your posture and your walking to accommodate the sensation of being pulled down from your front, and that is producing strain on your back.
Contra-lateral back pain may be related to a urinary tract infection or even kidney infection (pyelonephritis.) Your temperature may be elevated, and you may notice pain or a burning sensation when you urinate, and an uncontrollable urge to urinate even when your bladder is empty. Progesterone is also relaxing the smooth muscle of your urinary tract, resulting in a predisposition towards these types of potentially dangerous infections.
What To Do About Back Pain
Moderate exercise is the best remedy for lumbar back pain during early pregnancy. This may seem counter-intuitive; when your back hurts, you do not want to move. Many women experiencing this early pregnancy symptom stop exercising altogether. This is one of the worst things you can do to yourself and your baby.
One way to relieve lumbar discomfort is to stretch periodically throughout the day. Additional stretching should include:
- Squatting Stretches: Steady yourself on a piece of furniture and squat for one minute at a time
- Sitting Cross Legged: Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position for at least ten minutes a day.
- Tailor Stretching: Sit cross-legged, but bend your knees and place your feet together sole on sole.
- Pelvic Tilts: Press the small of your back against a wall and consciously relax your spine.
Lumbar back pain generally subsides around the 20th week of pregnancy as the pelvic brim comes to better support the uterus.
The Mayo Clinic identifies pregnancy pyelonephritis as a serious condition, requiring immediate medical attention. Maternal kidney infections have been linked to fetal and newborn mortality, and carry the risk of preterm labor and a low birth weight baby.