Back problems and pregnancy

About 50% of pregnant women have back problems. Women who give birth to multiple babies usually have more severe back problems. Back problems usually start after the fifth month of pregnancy. Two ‘pain syndromes’ can be distinguished: firstly, the ‘normal’ lower back complaints and secondly, complaints localized at the sacroiliac joint.

Possible causes of the back problems

  • Overstretching of the abdominal muscles and shortening of the back muscles can contribute to the development of a hyperlordotic back .
  • The ligaments of the pregnant woman become ‘looser’ as a result of a specific hormone, namely relaxin . More elastic ligaments in combination with hyperlordosis can also lead to back problems .
  • Several pregnant women exhibit sciatica symptoms . Research has shown disc anomalies (including hernia) in pregnant women. Furthermore, a link was found between pregnancy and disc herniation later in life.
  • Pregnant women often complain of pain and cramps in their legs. This can be caused by direct pressure from the fetus on the lumbosacral plexus (area where nerves and blood vessels meet).

Treatment of back problems in pregnant women

The treatment of back problems during pregnancy is complicated by the fact that it is difficult to make a proper diagnosis (the fetus hinders thorough research) and because some medicines are better not taken during pregnancy.

In most cases, relative bed rest is indicated. The pregnant woman should lie down several times a day, especially when symptoms increase.

Of course, activities that increase symptoms should be avoided. Lifting, bending, twisting, carrying, shifting heavy loads and wearing high heels should be discouraged.

An exercise program aimed at gradually strengthening the abdominal muscles is important. It is best to start this program as early as possible and try to maintain it for as long as possible. Pelvic tilts, simple abdominal exercises in combination with stretching of the leg muscles can be helpful.

After birth, postnatal exercises are necessary to shorten and strengthen the stretched abdominal muscles. The pelvic floor and leg muscles should not be forgotten. Especially in the first postnatal phase , the mother must avoid incorrect positions and movements (such as lifting the baby out of the crib, bending over when washing the baby) or perform these movements in a safe manner. After an initial general abdominal muscle strengthening program, follow-up with a more general sports and exercise program is possible.