Unfortunately back pain can be a common problem during this special time. Here are some commonly asked questions about Back Pain during pregnancy and in new mums.
Common causes of back pain during pregnancy :
· During pregnancy to prepare for the delivery of the baby, hormonal changes cause ligaments to soften. The effect of this is that we are less stable in our joints, especially those around the pelvis and lower back. Combine this with weight gain and changes in body shape you are more likely to get back pain.
· Fatigue is common in pregnancy, which can affect our posture and activity levels. We often become more slouched when we are tired and are also less likely to exercise as regularly.
· Lack of physical fitness and strength before falling pregnant is also an important factor.
Is this a common problem for most pregnant women?
· Yes, back pain is very common during pregnancy especially if you are not very active or fit before falling pregnant. If you have a preexisting injury you may also be predisposed to getting back pain.
What forms of exercise can help?
· Pelvic Floor exercises are essential. It is important to note that even if you are planning on or have had a caesarian, these exercises are still important because even just the weight of the baby onto the pelvic floor region whilst you are pregnant, is enough to cause these muscles not to work effectively.
· Simple exercise such as walking is recommended.
· Pilates, yoga, gym or home based programs that are prescribed by experienced health professionals are also appropriate.
What steps can we take to get relief?
· Continuing to remain active and regular exercise is very important during pregnancy. Even if it is a simple as going for a brisk walk 3 – 4 times a week, it can help enormously with pregnancy related aches and pains as well as your fitness levels to cope with labour.
· Other methods of pain relief may involve heat packs, massage, relaxation techniques and ensuring correct posture. This may involve additional pillows when lying down between your knees or a rolled up towel in the small of your back while sitting or posture supports or braces.
How can back pain affect our lives?
· Back pain can affect our ability to do normal activities, whether it be sitting in the car or at your work desk or doing housework like vacuuming and mopping.
· As well as the physical affects it can also be quite depressing if you have pain all of the time.
How big a problem can it be?
· Back pain, especially if it is quite severe from an early stage can be very debilitating. More so because your body continues to get strained further as the pregnancy progresses and your pain relief options are more limited.
Can your back be affected by labour?
· If you have unresolved back pain that causes a lot of stiffness in your lower back it can affect your body’s ability to labour effectively and may also cause a longer labour.
· Positioning during labour can also be a cause for increased back pain. Often laboring while standing leaning over the bed, or on all fours, can assist with a quicker delivery (because of the assistance of gravity) and have less back problems than when laying on your back. Obviously we don’t always have control over this if the baby needs to be monitored, however if you have the choice, remaining active and mobile during labour can be helpful.
· A Posterior delivery, which is when the babies back is facing your spine, can cause back pain during labour.
When we have our child what advice can you offer to help prevent back pain when breastfeed and carrying our baby around?
There are a number of things to make life easier for you when caring for your new baby:
· You can use pillows while feeding to support the baby and try to feed when sitting in a chair, rather than slouching against pillows in a bed.
· If breastfeeding make sure you bring your baby to your breast, rather than bending over them.
· When lifting your baby keep them close to you, the further the weight is away from your body, the more strain it places on your spine. You can also use a baby sling or carrier with a lower back support when you have to carry for longer periods. This is especially helpful if you have a baby with reflux who needs to be more upright.
· Around the house put your change table and baby bath at waist height and make sure you put the side of the cot down and take the tray off the high chair when you put your baby in and out so that you don’t have to bend forwards too much.
· When putting the baby into the car seat. Kneel with one knee on the car seat so that you are more supported as you lift the baby in.
· Try not to hold you baby on the same hip every time. Hold the baby in front of you, or alternate sides if holding them on your hips.
· If your toddler is big enough, get them to climb up on the lounge and then onto your lap, rather than you picking them up.
· This also applies to getting into the car. If your toddler is big enough to climb up into their seat it minimizes your lifting.
· Try to get some rest when your toddler is having their day sleep/ rest time if you are very fatigued.
· Continue to use a pram or stroller for your toddler for longer outings.
When is it time to see a Physio?
· It is important to see a physiotherapist early after getting back pain, as this is when treatment will be most effective and can be prevented from worsening.
· Sometimes it is as simple as providing some postural tips, exercises or a brace.
What advice and help will you offer?
· Your physiotherapist should provide a comprehensive assessment to assess the cause of your back pain.
· Depending on the findings of the assessment your physiotherapist may provide hands on treatment, fit you with a support brace, prescribe specific exercises and advice to help to ease your pain.
If you are currently pregnant or a new Mum, a Physiotherapist can help you with your back pain. Contact us on (02) 4647 3373 to make a time to see one of our Physiotherapists.