Pregnancy might be the most natural thing in the world, but it puts a lot of unnatural strain on your back.
After all, in the end you’re carrying an eight-pound weight on your front, it’s only normal that you should be experiencing some back pain, less commonly known as pelvic girdle pain, or PGP, from compensating from the added weight.
Thankfully, through a combination of mothers’ wisdom and science, there are a few ways to reduce pregnancy back pain.
If you’re feeling pain the last thing you might want to hear is just keep breathing, but it’s also the first thing you should try. The fact of the matter is, this baby is pushing around a lot of your organs, often resulting in a constricted diaphragm. This constriction prevents you from breathing properly which restricts the movement of your ribcage which in turn can contribute to your back pain.
If you’re feeling discomfort, practice deep core breathing — a long, steady breath that pushes your ribcage up and out on the inhale and softens down and in on the exhale. The slow, silent breath in through the nose will also circulate throughout the ribcage and lower back, helping to ease muscle tightness.
Keeping mobile as much as you can during pregnancy is another way to ease tension, even to prevent a build-up of tension in the first place. If exercise sounds like your perfect nightmare right now, remember it doesn’t all have to be marathons and CrossFit: swimming is a great way to keep moving without the same strain as other exercises.
The best exercises to relieve back tension are ones that focus on your glutes. Building up those glutes will take the strain off your hip and lower back muscles. Squats, lunges or bridges are all great low-intensity exercises that will strengthen those supporting muscles. If these feel like too much to you, try doing squats with your back against a wall to provide extra support.
Keeping your back healthy shouldn’t always be a chore, it can also be an opportunity to treat yourself. Keeping your muscles loose — especially your glutes, hamstrings and calves — is essential for keeping your back safe and supported, and a massage therapist is the perfect person to help. You can also achieve similar results yourself by using a foam roller on those important muscles.
Your posture is the number one contributor to poor back health. Considering how your baby imbalances your weight, it is particularly important while you’re pregnant. Even if you already have good posture, you might be engaging in ways of sitting and standing that are not as appropriate when pregnant.
When standing, put your weight on your heels rather than the balls of your feet; you may have to lean back a little to find a comfortable position. Also, try to stand with your feet hip-width apart to give yourself a proper base to distribute your weight. Be conscious of your posture when doing anything: always bend your knees and at the hips when picking things up, never arch or roll your back. When sitting, stay close to the edge of the seat and avoid slouching or sitting too long.
I’ve added this to the list as it’s a good way of relieving muscle tension, but included it last because it shouldn’t be one you rely on. Maternity belts can help relieve pain for short periods of time, but wearing one all day will encourage your back muscles to stop working, making them even more vulnerable to damage when you take the belt off (e.g. when you actually have the baby). Keep one handy for strenuous activity, but try not to rely on it.
Most of these tips you can do yourself with little to no practice, help or expense, and each contributes to healthy back life. Of course, if you’re experiencing prolonged or severe back pain, speak to a medical professional — listen to your body and treat it well!