Updated: Mar 28
Back pain is a common pregnancy symptom, affecting up to 80% of women. Not only is your body accommodating the constantly changing weight of a growing baby, but the hormone relaxin is released, which loosens and relaxes muscles, joints and ligaments, helping your body stretch to accommodate the new addition and prepare for labour. The result of the extra strain exerted on these weakened joints and ligaments is the infamous pregnancy back pain.
Unfortunately, back pain doesn’t always end with delivery for new mums. At our osteopathy clinic in Camden, some of our patients still report back pain six months to a year after giving birth. Further hormonal changes that occur postpartum as well as the physical demands of caring for your new baby can put even more strain on a body that’s already been through significant changes over the past nine months.
Postpartum back pain isn’t something that needs to be endured: understanding what’s causing your back pain and making small changes to your posture throughout your daily routine will make a big difference. Read on as we explore the common causes of postpartum back pain, and how to get relief. Remember, these tips aren’t exclusive to women who have just given birth; they’ll be helpful to any new parent.
Weakened Core Muscles
Core muscles weaken during pregnancy and can be further destabilised if you’re recovering from a C-section. A strong core muscle system is essential for providing proper support to your back and avoiding and easing pain.
Once your doctor has said it’s safe to do so, try to start incorporating some strengthening exercises into your routine. Exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do, but setting aside time for your own health is an important part of caring for yourself and your baby (even just 10 minutes a day will help!)
Don’t forget to involve your pelvic floor muscles, which are a vital component of your core muscle system
Lifting and carrying your baby
An average newborn baby weighs 7.5lbs, and by 6 months old this has increased to 15-18lbs. When you consider how many times a day you’re lifting your baby, it adds up to a lot of stress on a body that has already been working overtime throughout pregnancy and labour. Not to mention carting around all the equipment your little one needs, like a changing bag, car seat and pushchair.
Lift baby mindfully: bend at the knees (not at the waist), squat down and lift using your legs. Hold your baby close to your body, rather than having your arms outstretched
Use a front carrier when walking; look for one with wide, comfortable straps and a strap around your hips to distribute some of the weight
Try to avoid carrying baby on your hip whenever possible and if you do, alternate sides
Feeding your baby
Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you’ll likely be sitting down and leaning over your baby to do so. Holding this position repeatedly for long periods of time can strain muscles and ligaments in your neck and upper back.
Sitting in a comfortable, upright chair when nursing will support your back and make it easier to maintain good posture
Bring your baby up to you. You can get feeding pillows specifically for this purpose but stacking a couple of normal pillows on top of each other will also work
Before feeding, squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times – this will activate the muscles that support your upper back
Changing and bathing your baby
You’ll also find yourself bending over your baby multiple times throughout the day to change them, bathe them and maybe because you just can’t stop looking at them!
Use a changing table that brings your baby up to a height that you can stand at comfortably, without having to bend over too far
Using a baby bath means you can rest it on a higher surface than a normal bath (just make sure the surface is safe for this)
If you’re bathing baby in a standard bath, try to squat or kneel next to the bath rather than standing and leaning over. Position your body as close to the edge of the bath as possible, to avoid bearing weight without proper support
If you’re finding it tricky to navigate your body’s new normal, book a session with our team of fully licensed osteopaths and physiotherapists. They’ll work with you to create a treatment plan that focuses on strengthening the areas affected by pregnancy and labour for a strong, supported body that will carry you through this next chapter.