Understanding Back Pain in Early Pregnancy

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Published On
13 Aug, 2023
Read Time
4 minutes

Are you experiencing back pain in early pregnancy? You're not alone. Many pregnant people experience this discomfort as their bodies undergo significant changes to accommodate the growing baby.

While it's common to feel some discomfort during pregnancy, experiencing back pain can be worrying and it's important to know what symptoms to watch out for and how to alleviate the pain. In this blog, we'll discuss why back pain occurs in early pregnancy, symptoms to watch out for, and what options are available for safe and effective pain relief.

So, let's get started.

Back pain in early pregnancy: Why does it happen?

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

  • Ligaments are stretching: During pregnancy, your body goes through a lot of 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.
  • Increase in hormones: 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 pretty 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 put a strain on the back and pelvis.

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.

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.

How to avoid and ease back pain in early pregnancy

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Do pelvic floor (Kegel) and stabilisation exercises: Certain pregnancy exercises can help to strengthen your body and reduce the strain on the pelvis.
  8. Book a massage: There are specially designed massages that're safe during pregnancy and can target aches and pains to help relieve any issues.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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