There is not a more joyous time in the lives of a couple than when they are expecting a child. Words are inadequate to describe this experience. This process of bringing a new life into the world is simultaneously invigorating and more than a little scary!
During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes many changes in order to accommodate the birth, and this often results in the expectant mom experiencing back pain. In most cases, this pain is common. However, to paraphrase a wise person: “Pain is not common if it is YOUR pain.”
To explain why back pain often occurs in pregnant women, Dr. Jessica Shellock, a back specialist at Texas Back Institute was asked for her professional opinion. In the process giving this explanation, she also offered some suggestions on dealing with this pain.
The Causes of Back Pain
“There are two primary causes for back pain in women who are pregnant,” noted Dr. Shellock. “As the baby is growing in the uterus, its weight increases and this causes a strain on the lower back of the expectant mother. In order to accommodate this weight, a woman will change her posture – hyper-extending her lower back in order to maintain balance. This causes muscle strain and leads to pain.
“The other reason for this pain is due to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy,” she said. “Estrogen and Relaxin fluctuate in a woman’s body during this period of pregnancy. These hormones are preparing her body for childbirth. They loosen some of the ligaments, which allow the baby to pass through the birth canal. Both of these factors can cause increased fatigue and back pain.”
“These changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy don’t typically cause long – term injuries,” Shellock said. “However, women who are prone to having back pain are going to be more likely to experience back pain during their pregnancy.
“In most cases, after delivery, the pain will subside,” she said. “This is due to the woman losing that ‘baby weight’ and her hormones regrouping to their normal levels.”
Meet a Future Mom
Jaclyn McDaniel works closely with the sales and marketing team at Texas Back Institute. A few months ago, she and her husband Bryan McDaniel got some great news – they are having a son!
Has she had any unusual back pain due to her pregnancy?
“Nothing extreme,” she said. “In the early stages of pregnancy I had a little bit of numbness and tingling in my legs and feet, but Dr. Shellock helped guide me through it! I have noticed some minor lower back pain, but nothing serious. Dr. Shellock has been a great resource for me throughout the pregnancy and has helped me weather a couple of minor challenges. We are just so excited about our son’s arrival.”
“As for back pain…talk to me after I have been lifting him for a month or so!”
What about Exercise?
“In terms of avoiding this back pain, it’s important for a woman to be as physically active as possible during the early period of her pregnancy,” Dr. Shellock noted. “Later in the pregnancy it is more difficult to be able to do the core strength exercises due to the future mom’s increase in size.”
“Pilates and yoga-based exercises are great for an expectant mother. A woman can still exercise during the complete term of pregnancy, but she is more limited in activities. It is important for the expectant mother to continue some form of exercise so that her muscles don’t become deconditioned.”
When Back Pain is Serious
“If the pain is severe limiting mobility or if the woman has continuous leg pain, known as sciatica, it is recommended that she speak to her ob-gyn doctor and possibility see a spine specialist for further evaluation. Some therapy exercises and mild anti-inflammatories will help ease this pain.”
“During pregnancy, there are many medications which are not appropriate for the future mom to take,” Dr. Shellock noted. “So, if the back pain is not reduced by taking something like Tylenol, it’s best for the woman to get a medical opinion.”
Want to hear the complete interview with Dr. Jessica Shellock? Just click on the SpineTalk podcast below.
If you are pregnant and experiencing unusual lower back pain, see your physician or make an appointment with a back specialist at Texas Back Institute.