Caring for your back during pregnancy

Know your body

The changes that a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy are incredible and the transformation to becoming a Mum starts before the baby is even born. It’s understood that of all pregnant women, almost 50% will experience some back pain during their pregnancy term. Over half of these women will experience that pain during labour.[1] While the discomfort of labour is hard to diminish having a well moving spine and pelvis can help to mitigate these contributing sources of discomfort for the mother to be.

Why does it hurt?

With the ever-changing structure of the woman’s pelvis as she moves through to full term pregnancy, the body is constantly shifting and adapting to accommodate for these changes. One of the primary sources for discomfort for pregnant mothers is a shift in the centre of gravity. As a growing fetus increases in size and mass, the mother’s body will displace the weight forward. This shift forward causes the curve of the lower back known as the lumbar lordosis to increase. When the lumbar lordosis is increased this can cause increased loading onto the disc’s of the lower back. The disc is a delicate structure that sits between each of the spinal bones and acts as a spacer and shock absorber to stop the two bones from pressing together. If the loading is increased onto the discs of the lower spine this can increase the stress placed on particular areas of the spine itself known as facet joints.[2]

A secondary factor of spinal discomfort for expecting mothers is a change in the production of a hormone known as relaxin. While this hormone is present in non-pregnant woman and men too, it’s found in significantly higher levels during pregnancy. The hormone is vital for the pregnant mum for a multitude of reasons however, one of the side effects of having an increased level of production is that it can lead some joints to become unstable. The properties of relaxin cause an increase in water content in collagen fibres which increases the elasticity of ligaments.[3] When it comes time to deliver the baby, this increased elasticity is vital to allow the mother to minimise effort during delivery and to allow as much space as possible for the baby to be born. The side effect of instability can cause the ligaments that support the lower spine and pelvic girdle to become more elastic and subsequently loose strength.

Know when to ask for help

Always know that a health care provider is only a phone call away. If something doesn’t feel right for the pregnant mother, or discomfort is accompanied with other symptoms such as bleeding or fever don’t delay in ensuring to seek the proper advice. Surety will help to alleviate stress and ensure for a more relaxed state, both for the mother to be and the growing baby.


Seven secrets to spinal success.

While some issues may require professional assessment and management, the following tips can help assist and maintain a healthy spine throughout the terms of pregnancy.


Give your spine a break: low heeled shoes with a balanced arch support can help keep your balance central and reduce the chance of falling.

Bending and stretching: when you need to lift or bend, it’s always best to practice by first squatting through the knees and lifting with the legs.

Side sleeping: Sleeping on the side, not the back gives better support to your body. Specialty pregnancy pillows can be used to support your knees and abdomen.

Keep moving: regular physical activity can keep the muscles that support your lower spine active. With approval from your primary health care practitioner; one of the best exercises is water based as it will provide resistance without causing any impact on the spine.

Stretch it out: in the kneeling position, resting on your hands and knees slowly pull your stomach towards your body while rounding your back slightly. Aim to hold the stretch for a few seconds then gently release and relax your body keeping your spine as flat as possible. Speak to your health care provider for more exercises that may assist your specific body shape and type.

Perfect your posture: maintaining an upright posture reduces the pressure on the lower back, aim to keep your shoulders back and relaxed without locking your knees. A wide stance offers better support and be mindful of offering your lumber spine support when sitting too.

Complimentary modalities: research suggests that chiropractic treatment may provide comfort and alleviation of symptoms for some cases.[4] Speak to your health care provider to find a practitioner who can suitably handle your case.

Article written by: Greg Whitehead, Chiropractor

Address: Complete Chiropractic, Suite 1, 32 Fisher Road, Dee Why 2099

Phone: 9972 0040

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.completechirocare.com.au


[1] Phillips C.J., Meyer J.J. Chiropractic care, including craniosacral therapy, during pregnancy: a static-group comparison of obstetric interventions during labor and delivery. J Manipulative Physiol Ther.1995;18(8):525–529.

[2] Berg G., Hammer M., Moller-Nielsen J., Linden U., Thorblad J. Low back pain in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 1988;71:71–75.

[3] Pelvic floor functional changes with spinal manipulation in pregnant and non-pregnant women: A pilot study. JMPT 2016. In Press

[4] DiMarco D.B. The female patient: enhancing and broadening the chiropractic encounter with pregnant and postpartum patients. J Am Chiropr Assoc. 2003;40(11):18–24.


Author: NBMs

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