The pain can vary from intermittently minor discomfort, to chronic and debilitating. The pain may originate in the mid and/or lower back area and typically includes the pelvis and hips. The lumbar spine (lower back) and sacroiliac joints are most commonly affected due to changes in posture, joint stability, body weight and shape.
While in most cases back pain is self-limiting, resolves after delivery, and does not cause lasting issues, some women may continue to be affected by pain in the lumbar and/or pelvic region for several months or years. In general, women who receive postural and activity-related counseling during pregnancy are less likely to develop severe back pain symptoms.
This article describes the causes and types of pregnancy-related lower back pain in detail, including insights on treatment options and the occurrence of back pain after birth.
Typical Features of Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy
Back pain affects over 50% of pregnant women. While it can occur at any time during pregnancy, back pain is usually most troublesome during the second and third trimesters. Pregnancy-related symptoms and signs affecting the lower back typically result in reduced overall function and include (but are not limited to):
The effect of activity and weight on back pain. While pregnant women who lead a sedentary lifestyle may be at a higher risk of developing back pain, engaging in heavy physical labor or being active through the day may also lead to back pain symptoms in pregnancy.
Limited research indicates that women with increased body mass index (BMI) may be at a higher risk of developing back pain while pregnant.
Average Duration of Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy
Research indicates that over half the population of pregnant women experience pain in the lower back and/or pelvic region lasting more than 3 months, typically during the second and/or third trimester.
When Back Pain Is an Early Sign of Pregnancy
Since only a fraction of women develop back pain during the very early stages of pregnancy, the symptom is not usually identifiable as a sole or significant indicator of gestation. When back pain is accompanied by other symptoms and signs, such as a missed period, morning sickness, constant nausea, fatigue and/or body soreness, it may indicate early pregnancy
How Pregnancy-Related Changes May Cause Back Pain
Women usually gain between 20lb to 25lb (on average) during pregnancy, have a shift in their point of gravity and undergo several hormonal and anatomical changes. These natural alterations increase stresses and loads on the lower spine and pelvis, contributing to the following changes:
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