Your baby bump is growing by the day, but your new body shape often brings new aches and pains -- especially in your back. "A woman's body is in a constant state of change during pregnancy, and the spine is no exception," says Neel Anand, MD, a professor of orthopedic surgery and director of spine trauma surgery at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles.
As your center of gravity shifts, your body compensates by leaning backward, increasing the natural curve of your lower spine, which can lead to back pain. While it's extremely common -- 50% to 70% of all women have back pain at some point during their pregnancy -- you don't have to suffer. Ease the ache with these simple tips.
- Stand up straight. This sounds like a simple and obvious solution, but it can become more difficult as pregnancy progresses, says Anand. To train your back muscles, sit up straight in a chair with your hands on your thighs and your shoulders down. Pull your shoulders back, squeeze the shoulder blades together, and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this three or four times daily to perfect your posture and help relieve pressure on your lower back.
- Jump in the pool. Or lake. Or go for a walk. "Exercise can be one of the best ways to relieve back pain during pregnancy because it strengthens muscles and increases flexibility, so your spinal muscles will be more ready and willing to take on whatever changes come their way," says Anand. Walking, swimming, or riding a stationary bike are all great, low-impact options when you have a baby on board.
- Kick off your heels. Improper shoes -- whether unsupportive or too high -- alter the alignment of your pelvis, which can cause back pain even when you're not pregnant, says Anand. Instead, opt for comfy flats or tennis shoes that have enough cushioning and arch support -- at least until the baby comes.
- Perfect your pillow placement. The best position for sleeping while pregnant is on your side, with a pillow between your knees. This takes pressure off your lower back. But you can experiment with different pillow placements to see what works best for you -- like one between your arms if you have upper back pain, or as pregnancy progresses one under your abdomen for even more back support. "And, of course," says Anand, "some pregnant women prefer a full body pillow to help support all these key areas of the body."
- Talk to your doctor. For many women, back pain during pregnancy is bound to happen, and not all cases require a visit to the OB/GYN. "But, as always, listen to your body and don't be afraid to seek help if you feel you need it," says Anand. "Your physician can help evaluate your pain and make the best recommendations for treatment -- giving you the best chance for bouncing back after childbirth."
- Cat stretch: Get on your hands and knees and gently round out your back as you pull in your stomach. Do 10 reps holding this position for at least 10 to 20 seconds each, depending on your comfort level.
- Standing pelvic tilt: While standing straight up against a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart, push the small of your back against the wall. Do 10 reps at a time to help stretch and strengthen your lower back muscles.
- Fitness ball stretch: Sit on the floor with a fitness ball at your back in front of a wall. Lean your back against the ball, until it supports your weight, keeping your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and your hands on your hips with your elbows out. Push the small of your back upward into the fitness ball and hold for 10 to 20 seconds before going back into the starting position. Do 10 reps.
Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of WebMD Magazine.