Your baby bump is growing. How exciting! You’re finally showing off that adorable bump, but you’re starting to notice that a bigger bump comes with more aches and pains, especially in your back. Don’t despair – I’m going to share the one surprising thing that completely helped me and can improve your pregnancy back pain.
Why Does Your Back Hurt So Much?
Our growing babies are stretching the muscles around our bellies, pulling our round ligaments in our groins and around our backs. The more our bumps grow, the more weight and pulling of our muscles. Plus, your baby may be laying more on your spine. Perhaps your baby is in the posterior position, aka sunny side up, and putting even more of its weight on your back. All of this is going to cause achiness and pain.
But, this doesn’t mean you need to suffer needlessly. So, how can you improve your pregnancy back pain?
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The One Trick That Helped Me
This one thing will not cost you any money. I had bought a pregnancy belly band to help with my round ligament pain, and it did provide some relief while I was at work, but it didn’t help with my back pain.
My chiropractor, Lisa Lipari, suggested I try pelvic tilts to ease my back pain. What are pelvic tilts? If you do yoga, you may know them as the Cat/Cow pose. And it made a huge difference in my pregnancy.
This movement requires you to be on all fours and tilt your pelvis downward toward the floor and back up, almost forming a straight table with your spine. Don’t tilt your pelvis all the way up to the ceiling like you would in yoga.
I did this move several times a day, but especially right before bed. I couldn’t sleep because my back was so uncomfortable, but once I started doing 20 sets of these beforehand, my pain was at ease and I could sleep! Try doing the same before bed every night.
BONUS – this move is wonderful for improving your pelvic floor and having a smoother labor!
*As always, ask your doctor if you’re cleared for exercise before attempting this stretch*
The pelvic floor is the layer of muscles that stretch under the pelvis and support the inner organs (bowels, uterus, and bladder). I had never heard of the pelvic floor until I started learning about pregnancy and birth. Even though I was already suffering from and getting treated for a pelvic floor dysfunction long before I became pregnant, no one, not my OB or physical therapist, explained what the pelvic floor muscles did and how they could impact my well-being.
Turns out, as I would later learn, my pelvic floor could wreak a lot of havoc on my body during pregnancy and labor. My pelvic instability lead to symphysis pubis disorder that caused excruciating pelvic girdle pain that still lingers today, one year after I gave birth. The pulling on my pelvic muscles also lead to a lot of back pain.
To learn more about pelvic health, I reached out to Rachel Parrotta, DPT, a pelvic health physical therapist.
“I believe that all people would benefit from learning about their pelvic floor muscles prior to giving birth,” Dr. Parrotta said. “Since we are often unfamiliar with these muscles, it can be difficult for people to use their pelvic floor muscles in ways that help facilitate both birthing and post-partum recovery.”
Imagine, you are in labor and your care provider says, “Okay, it’s time to push.” Many birthing people may feel that bearing down feeling, that urgent need and desire to push. However, receiving an epidural can prevent people from experiencing bearing down and even from pushing effectively because the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles feel numb. Care providers do something called “coached” or “directed pushing” until the laboring person gets the hang of how to push. Your care provider will tell you when and how to push in accordance with your contractions.
This happened to me. I got an epidural during back labor and didn’t have the bear down feeling until my water broke. My midwife coached my pushing because I wasn’t using my pelvic floor muscles correctly. She told me I wasn’t doing right. She got frustrated and impatient with me. She actually shoved her finger up my bum WITHOUT INFORMED CONSENT to pinpoint the muscles I should be using – an action that still makes me shudder and feel small to this day. I don’t want this to happen to you.
Ideally, we want our pelvic floor muscles to be relaxed during the second stage of labor (pushing), as tensing those muscles can actually delay birth. You can go to a professional like Dr. Parrotta to identify your pelvic floor muscles and learn how to use them for pushing BEFORE labor.
“Learning about your pelvic floor muscles prior to birth can help prepare for a more effective pushing phase of birth, especially if a person is planning on birthing with an obstetrician and/or with an epidural,” said Dr. Parrotta.
Pushing your baby into the world is a powerful action that we are all capable of doing. Exploring your pelvic floor to ensure its health and learn about its abilities can make an impact on your birth and postpartum experiences.