Data shows that 50-80% of women report back pain at some point during their pregnancy. This is an extremely common pregnancy symptom, one that’s unavoidable and commonly expected, and most women will just grit their teeth until the day their baby is born and hope the back pain will subside.
However, 50% of women report back pain continuing after pregnancy, in the first 3 months after childbirth. With such a high percentage of new mothers experiencing back pain after pregnancy, we thought it was a good idea to look into what exactly causes postpartum backpain, how long back pain after pregnancy commonly lasts, as well as looking into what you can do to treat your back problems and how you can prevent postpartum back pain in the future.
What Causes Postpartum Back Pain?
So, we know that back ache during your pregnancy, and postpartum back pain once the baby has arrived, is highly common. We also know that new mamas need to make sure they are taking care of their backs and spines, and the first step to this is finding out what exactly could be causing your postpartum back pain in the first place. Below we have listed some of the more common contributors to postpartum back pain that will most likely be present in your daily life as a new mum:
- The Strain of Lifting Your Newborn Repeatedly: You wouldn’t all of a sudden start lifting heavyweights at the gym, instead you would slowly ease yourself in by gradually increasing the amount you can lift. When it comes to having a baby, all of a sudden you will find yourself lifting your new born repeatedly, something you are unlikely to have prepared or trained for. This can put real strain on your back initially but the good news is that it should only be temporary, until your back muscles are strong enough.
- Hunching Over to Breastfeed: A hunched back during breastfeeding is a really common cause for back pain after pregnancy! Let’s face it, who is really thinking about their posture when their baby is hungry? Paying attention to your posture during breastfeeding and ensuring that you are not hunching over will help to reduce any unnecessary strain on your back.
- Hormones: Your body releases progesterone and relaxing hormones to loosen up the ligaments and joints of the pelvic bone during pregnancy – this is what helps to make delivery easier. You would hope that once your baby is born these hormones would ease off, but unfortunately, they tend to linger and can certainly end up a culprit for your postpartum back pain. Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to shift or take control of these hormones.
- Weakened/Stressed Tummy Muscles Due to Childbirth: A strong core is one of the best ways to keep proper posture and prevent back pain for anyone. However, during childbirth, these muscles are put under an immense amount of stress and can become weaker, especially if you have had a caesarean (C-section). Light abdominal exercises could help to strengthen up your core and reduce any back pains.
- Weight Gain: Extra bodyweight from pregnancy will also put a strain on your back and the sudden fluctuations in your weight can certainly be a factor when it comes to your postpartum backpain. Unfortunately, there is no way of avoiding this weight gain and loss but the good news is that the effects should only be short-lived.
Despite common belief, an epidural is unlikely to be the sole contributor to your postpartum back pain.
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How Long Does Back Pain After Pregnancy Last?
There is no specific length of time that postpartum backpain lasts. Sometimes it will subside in a matter of days and in some of the worst cases, mothers are experiencing back pain years after giving birth. On average, back pain after pregnancy will have eased off within about 6 months. This is when the high hormone levels begin to even out and go back to normal and your body is on the road to recovery. In some extreme cases, however, this back pain can stick around for a lot longer if untreated or the habits causing the discomfort are not changed.
How long your postpartum back problems last will somewhat be dependent on you, the habits you develop and how you recover from your pregnancy.
How Can You Treat Postpartum Back Pain?
So, we know just how problematic back pain after pregnancy can be and we also know some of the more common causes of postpartum back pain, but what can be done to treat your back problems after birth? Well, we have comprised some of the best steps you can take right now to get on the road to recovery, but you should always check with your GP or a specialist if your back pain is unbearable or persists beyond 6 months:
- See a Chiropractor, Osteopath or Physiotherapist: Specialists in alignment and back pain can help to treat discomfort that cannot be remedied by yourself at home. Some experts can advise you on exercises and stretches which are specifically designed to help with back pain after pregnancy.
- Get a Professional Massage: A professional massage is a great of reducing stress and working tension out of muscles, helping to ease any back pain.
- Take a Warm Bath: Running yourself a warm bath is a great for relaxing stiff muscles, reducing stress and improving blood flow down to your perineal area, which in turn helps to reduce swelling, inflammation and helps with your post-birth healing process. Add in some Epsom salts or magnesium for added benefits!
What Are The Best Ways To Prevent Back Pain After Pregnancy?
While remedies for back pain after pregnancy are great for quick relief, the discomfort will often return if you do not take steps to prevent it! So here are a few ideas that can help you to prevent postpartum back pain:
- Posture is Key: This applies to how you stand and how you sit. When you’re standing, keep your back straight by engaging your core, relaxing your shoulders back and down and being sure to keep your pelvis underneath you, rather than tucking it too far under or sticking your bottom out and arching your back. Avoid leaning over on one hip by distributing your weight evenly between your feet. When sitting, try not to sit twisted or with one leg tucked under you. Sit with your head over your solar plexus and your solar plexus over your pelvis. Keep your legs and hips at a right angle; or you could try sitting with your feet up - a great way of ensuring you are comfortable without hunching or slouching.
- Exercise or Move Every Day: Once you have been cleared to exercise by your doctor, make sure you move a little bit each day. Walking is a great way to exercise as it increases blood flow, improves your cardiovascular health, loosens your hip flexors (tight hips are a common contributor to back pain!) and it can improve your mood. You should also focus on strengthening muscles that have been weakened during pregnancy and childbirth such as your core and pelvic floor. A daily exercise which postpartum women can be doing is pelvic tilts, a simple move that can be done lying down on the floor with your feet on the ground, knees bent. Engage your core, pulling your bellybutton towards your spine. Tighten your glutes and imagine tilting your pelvis towards your face. Ensure your lower back is connected to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax. Do 5-10 reps several times a day. Postpartum yoga is also a great choice because it is strengthening and great for reducing stress! Any exercise is good if you do it safely and regularly; consistency is key.
- Be Aware of Your Sleeping Position: If you often find your back pain is worse in the morning, it is likely that your sleeping position is one of the culprits. If you typically sleep on your front, try putting a small pillow or towel under your hips. If you sleep on your side or in the foetal position, avoid curling your legs up to close to your chest (this will result in your spine not being straight) or put a small pillow or a towel between your legs to align your hips. If you sleep on your back, try putting a pillow under your knees or under the arch of your back.
- Get a Snugglebundl to Avoid Awkward Bending and Improve Posture While Lifting Your Baby: The Snugglebundl was designed to provide parents with an easy and comfortable way to move their baby. Avoiding awkward bending and stooping is nearly impossible when you are constantly picking up and putting down your baby, getting them out of their car seat or pram or carrying them around and this ultimately results in poor posture, one of the main causes for back pain. The Snugglebundl is a lift and lay blanket with handles, which works in a similar way to a hammock, providing your baby with full head, neck and body support as you lift them up, meaning you can keep your back straight and lift your baby safely at the same time! This is why the Snugglebundl has been a real lifesaver for thousands of parents! Another great feature of the Snugglebundl is that you can move your baby while their asleep without waking them up! Bonus!
Back pain after pregnancy can leave you feeling more stressed, tired, or even stuck in bed and unable to care for your new baby properly; but with patience, consistency and a Snugglebundl, you can treat the discomfort, prevent future suffering and eventually be free of your postpartum back pain!