It is a well-known fact that during pregnancy, your body produces special hormones that stimulate biomechanical changes in the musculoskeletal system affecting your posture and spine alignment. Although they can be subtle, the postural changes of pregnancy have profound effects on many areas of your body.
As the weight of your baby increases and the uterus expands, the pelvis tips to counterbalance the load in order to maintain the center of gravity and prevent the body from falling forwards. The pubic bone and tailbone move backward, increasing the arch in the lower back. This is known as the pelvic tilt.
To compensate for the increased arch of the lower back, the upper back curves backwards, rounding the shoulders and collapsing the chest. The head slightly tilts forwards. The rounded shoulders and the arched lower back increases the overall S-curve of the spine, a posture known as the lordosis of pregnancy.1
Lordosis increases in later pregnancy causing the typical swayback and waddling gait of pregnancy – this is the main reason for the “famous” lower back pain so common in pregnant women.
So, how can you protect your back and minimize the pain during pregnancy?
9 Simple Ways
1. Regular Exercise
Keeping fit by doing light exercise is always good for you, but don’t overdo things. If you experience pain while you exercise, don’t push through the pain, as it could cause injury. The best pregnancy exercises include walking, swimming, cycling on an exercise bike, using a gym ball, pilates or yoga.2
2. Avoid Heavy Lifting
Heavy lifting should be avoided at all cost, but If you have to lift or carry anything heavy, hold it close to your body, bend your knees and not your back, and try not to twist. Carry your shopping bags in each hand or use a rucksack, which helps back muscles to work better.
If you already have older children, make sure they can climb on to a chair or sofa before you pick them up. Encourage them to climb into their car seats or high chairs themselves.
3. Comfortable Shoes Are The Way Forward
Wear what feels best. If you were used to very high heels and swap to flats, you may feel uncomfortable at first, but your Achilles tendons will soon adjust.
4. Improve Your Posture
Stand as if someone is making you taller by pulling a string attached to the top of your head. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, and your tummy muscles will help to support your back. Pelvic tilting can ease back strain caused by sitting or standing for long periods. When sitting, slowly work your pelvis back and forth rhythmically, without moving your shoulders, so your back becomes round, and then arched.
If you have pelvic pain, focus on the forward tilt, where you stick your chest and bottom out. Try to bend backwards regularly, particularly when you have been sitting down or bent over for a long time.
5. Try Not To Put Too Much Weight On
Having a high body mass index makes you more likely to develop back and pelvic pain during your pregnancy. You shouldn’t be on a diet, but try to control how much weight you gain. Stick to a healthy and balanced diet and exercise regularly, this should help you to maintain a healthy weight.3
6. Find A Comfortable Sitting Position
When sitting, make sure that your back is well supported. Use some kind of cushioned support that fits over the back of your chair. The ideal position is for your back to be slightly arched, with your breasts pointing straight ahead, rather than down towards your bump. Part your legs slightly, to allow for your bump.
7. Pay Attention To Your Emotions
Anxiety and depression could make the pain you are experiencing harder to bear and in some instances even amplify it. Talk to your midwife or doctor if you feel that things are getting too much. They can help.
8. Be Careful With The Time For Resting
Too much rest can make back or pelvic pain worse, but it’s also important to rest your pelvis at regular intervals. Kneel or lean forward to protect your pelvic joints and to take the weight off your back. Alternate between rest and activity, rather than spending long periods of time being active and long periods of time resting.
9. Pregnancy Support Bands
Wearing a pregnancy support band, can help you to stay active if you have back or pelvic pain, but don’t wear it all of the time because it may make your muscles lazy. Try to wear it only while you are exercising, or while you are at work.
Back Pain After Childbirth
The truth is that unfortunately, the back pain doesn’t go away after you give birth. After childbirth, the body needs to be kept in a correct posture during all activities to help the spine to re-align and get back to the normal curvatures.
The postpartum period is the time when the woman has not totally recovered from the stress and strain placed on her body by pregnancy and labour. Yet, this is also the time when she has to look after her baby – feed, bathe, lift and take care of everything else as well. For that reason it’s important to try to pay attention to the following:
1. Breastfeeding Posture
While breastfeeding, the baby should be held in the arm so that the mother’s spine remains straight. Slouching over the baby curves the upper spine and can increase backache.
2. Lifting The Baby
The movement should be from the knees rather than the backbone. Bending forwards and down to lift the baby from the bed puts excessive strain on the ligaments and muscles of the back and abdomen.
3. Changing Clothes
The baby should be placed on an elevated surface so that the clothes can be changed while you are standing up. Stooping to change the clothes is a bad posture and can cause severe lower backache.