Back and Pelvic Pain: Both during and after pregnancy, back pain is very common. It’s critical to understand that while it’s common, it is NOT normal! The physical demands of parenting and caring for an infant or child are enormous and shouldn’t be underestimated. Repeated daily activities, like lifting a child or carrying a car seat and diaper bag, can cause repetitive stress that compromises spinal integrity. Injury to discs, joints, muscles and tissue can result from chronic lifting and twisting or poor form.
Postpartum women are at higher risk for back pain because of the following:
- hormonal changes relax ligaments and compromise the stability of the spine
- spinal stabilizers, like abdominal muscles, lose tone so their ability to support movement decreases
- instability increases through the course of pregnancy as postural changes become noticeable
- the body’s center of gravity changes and excessive pressure is placed on the low back as the baby grows
Other factors that can contribute to post-partum back pain are depression, c-section, chronic fatigue, compromised nutrition, or illness. The constant need to hold a baby and engorged breast tissue, if breastfeeding, contribute as well.
Only some women experience back pain during pregnancy but all women undergo physical changes that can contribute to later symptoms of back pain. Women may also experience a decrease in pain perception, or their awareness of pain, during pregnancy. Once hormonal levels stabilize post-partum, pain perception may return to normal, causing more awareness of aches and pains. If back pain or discomfort isn’t treated it is likely to worsen or cause problems in the future.
Good Form for Good Function
Once your baby has arrived, start by establishing good habits right away:
- Sit when feeding your baby, whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
- Switch sides with each feeding.
- While sitting, support your lower back by placing a stool or pillow under your feet and ankles.
- Practice good posture when standing: feet should be under hips, body upright not slouched in any direction or putting all of your weight on one leg with the opposite hip jutting out. (image here of good vs bad posture)
- Practice sitting on your “sitting bones,” the pair of bones under butt cheeks, and avoid crossing legs.
- Lift using legs, bending at the knees and hips, not your back.
- Use an earpiece or other hands-free device while on the phone to avoid pinching the phone between ear and shoulder.
- If your infant is in a portable car seat, hold it as close to your body as possible when moving.
- Bathe your baby in an infant tub on the kitchen counter, at a better postural height, rather than hunching over the tub.