Back pain may appear at any time during pregnancy, but it is more common to feel it during the third trimester as it is a significant period for your baby’s growth and development, which puts extra pressure on your lower back area.
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Such pain can affect your daily routine, and you may have difficulty to find a comfortable sleeping position at night. But it is often more intense when changing positions, like from lying to standing, or when bending over to pick up an object from the ground.
Back pain can occur in the lower, middle, or upper part of the back, and may or not radiate laterally. During the last stage of pregnancy, it is most frequently located in the lumbar and sacral area of the lower back, and can range from mild to severe.
In rare cases, back pain can be a sign of something more serious that requires an immediate doctor’s visit. However, there are many ways to ease the symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.
What causes back pain in the third trimester of pregnancy?
Back pain can appear early and increase considerably after the sixth month of pregnancy. It may also be more severe depending on a woman’s age and the number of pregnancies.
During the third trimester, uterus growth and hormonal activity strongly affect the mother’s body balance. The pain is mainly felt in the lower back and sometimes in the buttocks and upper legs. Often confused with sciatica, which is an uncommon cause of back pain during pregnancy.
In preparation for childbirth, your body produces “Relaxin” hormone that allows ligaments and muscles to become more strained, especially in the sacral area of the lower back and pelvis. They need to relax and stretch even more during the last stage of pregnancy.
Your lower back is therefore under great stress. The same hormone can also release ligaments in the spine, making you less stable and more uncomfortable when you walk, stand, or sit for long periods of time.
weight gain and Posture Changes
Back pain in the third trimester is mostly due to weight gain and posture changes. Of course, your weight has increased over the last three months. First, because your baby gets bigger, but also because your body stores some reserves for breastfeeding.
Weight gain is mainly centered on the lower pelvic area. As your belly size increases, your back curves and your gravity center moves forward. Yet your abdominal muscles, stretched by the Relaxin hormone, will no longer play their role.
As a result, your body inclines forward and the entire lower back flexes. Pregnant women unconsciously tend to compensate by pushing the upper body backward over the pelvis, but this also increases the pressure on the lower back.
High Nerve Pressure
Back pain also occurs when a sciatic nerve is pressed. The extra weight you carry means more work for your muscles and more strain on your joints. This makes back pain much worse at the end of the day.
When you are too flexed, your spinal discs are slightly pinched, especially when the sciatic nerves move away from the spinal cord. Such “tickling” can irritate these nerves and worsens your back pain.
The third trimester can be both a physical and emotional challenge for pregnant women. Emotional stress can create a strain on muscles in the back that often feels like spasms or pain, especially during stressful periods of pregnancy.
Other factors that promote back pains
- Multiple pregnancy
- Significant weight gain
- Lack of physical activity before and during pregnancy
- Pre-existing medical condition like scoliosis
- Intense and stressful work activity
- Magnesium deficiency
What To Do If The Pain Persists?
In most cases, back pain during the third trimester is not a cause of concern. When the pain lasts longer than usual or is very intense, it is advisable to see a doctor. He or she can monitor you closely in order to evaluate its causes, and treat any complications in good time.
If you think you may have sciatica or your back pain is not getting better, ask your doctor or midwife to refer you to a physiotherapist or osteopath. Some manipulations may help to release the sciatic nerve.
In case of vaginal bleeding, uterus contractions, fever with severe pain in the lower part or in the sides of the back, you will need immediate medical intervention.
How to prevent back pain in the third trimester of pregnancy?
Pregnant women can take certain precautions to prevent or, at least, relieve existing back pain during the third trimester.
- Wearing a maternity belt support will help maintain your pelvis and relieve pain in this area during the third trimester of pregnancy.
Best Maternity Belt To Try
- Applying hot and cold to the back can help reduce spasms and pain. If your doctor agrees, you can apply a cold compress to the painful area for 20 minutes several times a day. After two or three days, switch to heating.
Best Cold And Hot Packs To Try
- Massages can also help relax muscles and stimulate blood circulation. This will help to ease the pain in the back area.
Best Back Massagers To Try
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. When standing, it is recommended to place your lower back on a wall.
- Do not pull or carry heavy objects.
- Relaxing sports such as yoga, walking, and swimming can help to relieve stress in your spine, which could ease your back pain.
- Pregnant women should wear flat, comfortable shoes. They provide good stability and relieve the spine pressure.
- Rest and relax as often as possible. Lying on your side in fetal position has a great benefit.