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Half of all pregnant women have back pain at some point, but there are some simple ways to relieve it – or perhaps even prevent it in the first place.
What causes it?
Backache in pregnancy can range from mild tinges to extreme pain. It's caused by a combination of things:
the weight of your growing baby
the effect of pregnancy hormones, which soften ligaments in the joints of your back and pelvis
changes in your posture while you are pregnant
Ways to beat pregnancy backache
1. When lifting anything, bend from your knees and keep your back and neck upright. Avoid heavy lifting during pregnancy.
2. Try to do as much housework as you can sitting down, for example, ironing or peeling vegetables.
3. Stick to low-heeled shoes.
4. Never slouch in a chair - always have a cushion behind you and make sure your bottom is well up against the back of the chair.
5. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and, above all, firm!
6. Gentle back exercises may help (see Two to try, below).
7. Support your bump with a pillow in bed - this stops the weight pulling on your lower back.
8. When getting up from a lying position, roll over onto your side and get up sideways.
9. Avoid bending forward - if you need to pick anything off the floor, bend your knees.
10. If you are really suffering, ask your doctor to refer you to a physiotherapist who specialises in women's health.
Two to try
These simple exercises will help to keep your back strong and to ease any pain. They're safe to do in pregnancy, but check with your doctor first if you have a history of back pain:
1. Stand with your back straight and your knees slightly bent, keeping your legs about a foot apart.
2. Rotate your pelvis up and forwards slightly, squeezing the muscles in your bottom as you do so. Relax. Repeat 12 times every day.
TIP: Until you get used to the rotating movement, keep one hand on your stomach and the other on your bottom.
1. On all fours with your arms shoulder-width apart, hump your back, pull your stomach muscles in and bend your head to your chest.
2. Keeping it slow and staying in control, relax your back (without letting your bump sag downwards) and raise your head to look up towards the ceiling.
3. Slowly return to the first position and repeat slowly 10 times.
After the birth
Some mums find they only get back pain after giving birth, or that their pregnancy backache becomes worse. The pregnancy hormones which keep your muscles soft stay in the body for a couple of months after you give birth, so this is when you are most at risk.
VTo avoid back pain after you have your baby:
Buy a proper changing table and a baby bath stand so you don't have to stoop to change or bathe your baby
When breastfeeding sit in a straight-backed chair (or support your back with cushions) and keep your feet flat on the floor. Support your baby on a pillow on your lap rather than taking the weight with your arms.
When lifting your baby or putting him down, hold him close to you, keep your back and neck upright and bend your knees.
Did you know?
Backache in late pregnancy may mean your baby is in a posterior position (with his back to yours). The Cat exercise (see Two to try) will help to relieve this kind of pain, and may help change your baby's position.
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