Back Pain in Pregnancy: Causes, Treatments & Types

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

One of the worst parts of being an expecting mother is the back pain in pregnancy. For some women, this is the most consistent and uncomfortable parts of the pregnancy, because the body is going through so many changes and is forced to adapt so quickly. Therefore, it is important to understand what back pain in different trimester means, as well as the potential treatments for this irritating condition.

Types of Pregnancy Back Pain

Back pain in pregnancy can come in two main forms: lower back pain and posterior pelvic pain. It is critical that you recognize and differentiate between them, as they can be caused by different triggers, and may respond better to different treatment approaches.

Lower Back Pain: Also known as lumbar pain, this is inflammation in the lower back, extending to the center of the back, that is often exacerbated by extended periods of standing, sitting or bending over. Sciatic nerve pain is slightly different and results from pressure being put on the sciatic nerve, but this is also a common type of back pain during pregnancy. In the case of sciatica, however, the pain will often radiate down the leg, through the buttocks, all the way to the feet. [1]

Pregnant woman sitting with her hand on her stomach and a worried expression on her face

Back pain during pregnancy is quite a common occurence. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Posterior Pelvic Pain: This pain is felt in the back of the pelvis and is often considered a “deeper” pain than lower back pain, meaning that it can be harder to identify the source of the discomfort. This is also a far more common form of back pain during pregnancy, and can be primarily felt across the hips and waistline, and through the tailbone. [2]

Back Pain in First, Second & Third Trimesters

Depending on the point in your pregnancy, the severity and frequency of back pain may be different. Therefore, your response to back pain in your first, second, and third trimesters may also vary.

First Trimester: In the first trimester, following implantation and the release of pregnancy hormones, minor back pain is often experienced as the ligaments begin to loosen and the body prepares to carry a child. The uterus is also changing shape and your posture is likely already starting to change. [3]

Second Trimester: More of the hormone relaxin is working on the body at this point, easing ligament and joint strength to accommodate the growing womb. Once the baby bump begins to form, posterior pelvic pain is more common. [4]

Third Trimester: When the fetus reaches this last growth stage, it is basically just gaining weight, which puts additional pressure on the body to support that extra mass. Your compensation for posture, as well as the physical pressure on tissues and nerves in your lower back, make back pain quite common as you near delivery. [5]

Causes of Back Pain in Pregnancy

There are a number of different causes of back pain in pregnancy, including weight change, hormonal fluctuations, posture alterations and stress, among others.

Weight Change: Adding significant amounts of weight will cause soreness in your muscles and joints, just like you would normally experience after a hard workout. Excessive weight gain will make these symptoms worse. [6]

Stress: High-stress levels can affect hormone production and release in the body, potentially causing you to be too tense as your body continues to adjust, or allowing too much relaxin to weaken the resolve of your ligaments. [7]

Hormone Fluctuation: As mentioned, pregnancy hormones can cause ligaments, joints, and muscles to lose their tension, making it easier for inflammation and back pain to occur. [8]

Posture: Altering your posture during pregnancy is almost inevitable, but this will put new strains on previously underused muscles, resulting in soreness and inflammation. [9]

Symptoms of Back Pain in Pregnancy

The most common symptoms of back pain in pregnancy include tingling, sharp stabbing pains, numbness, or a constant dull aching. The difference in symptoms is often based on the cause of your back pain, and the type of back pain you are experiencing. In most cases, the symptoms of back pain can be mitigated by changes to your activity patterns and home remedies, but if the pain is severe, it is important to speak with a doctor.

In rare cases, rhythmic or spasmodic back pain can be a sign of premature labor, so always pay attention to the frequency and intensity of your pain.

Treatments for Back Pain in Pregnancy

Some of the best treatments for back pain during pregnancy are yoga, prenatal massage, hot and cold therapy, stretching, swimming, rest, and acupuncture, to name a few.

Prenatal Massage

A gentle prenatal massage at any point during the pregnancy can induce circulation and reduce muscle inflammation. [10]


This will increase flexibility and lower stress hormone levels, helping to eliminate back pain in pregnancy. [11]


This low-impact exercise keeps you active but doesn’t put any unwanted strain on the muscles in your back or pelvis. [12]


The simplest solution is to rest your overworked body; find a comfortable position and stay off your feet until the pain passes.


This ancient Chinese remedy targets specific pressure points that can lower inflammation of certain nerves. [13]


Regular morning stretching can warm up the muscles and joints that will need to support your weight all day. [14]

Prevention of Back Pain in Pregnancy

There are also a number of small changes you can make that lower your risk of experiencing back pain during pregnancy, including improving your posture, altering your sleeping position, changing your shoes, and cutting back on risky movements.

Posture: Consciously changing your posture and choosing your seats wisely can help to prevent a lot of the inflammation and discomfort of back pain in pregnancy.

Sleep Position: Using a maternity pillow and ensuring you have proper support while you sleep is crucial to preventing back pain. [15]

Shoes: Eliminate the high heels and find the most comfortable shoes you can find during pregnancy, particularly if you are experiencing lower back or sciatica pain.

Strenuous Movements: Cut down on lifting things or moving boxes while pregnant; there is no need for the additional strain on your already strained body. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

Rate this article
Average rating 4.5 out of 5.0 based on 2 user(s).