OB ABCs

Week 23

week_23During week 23 of pregnancy, the continued expansion of your uterus causes the lower spine to curve backward in a process that likely began a few weeks earlier.

This adjustment to your posture helps you balance the weight of your baby and keeps you from falling forward. The change in your center of gravity causes you to lean backward, placing a greater strain on your back muscles.

Your abdominal muscles, which normally support the spine, become weak during pregnancy as a result of stretching and may cause back pain. There may also be a chemical explanation for some back pain. The body releases a hormone, relaxin, to ease your baby’s passage through the pelvis by relaxing ligaments in the weight-bearing joints. While this makes the birth process easier, it can also lead to back pain if the pelvic joints become too flexible.

Don’t Take Back Pain Lying Down

Simple changes to your wardrobe, activities and environment can make a big difference when it comes to relieving back pain. Try some of the following tips.

  • Never lift heavy objects alone.
  • Place a board between the mattress and box springs of your bed if you’re not getting enough support while sleeping.
  • Place one foot on a stool or box when standing for long periods of time.
  • Stay active by walking or exercising.
  • Squat, bend your knees and keep your back straight to lift things.
  • Use a small pillow behind your lower back when sitting.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes with plenty of arch support, but avoid flats.

Certain stretching and bending exercises can also help reduce back pain. The forward bend, which strengthens back muscles, can be performed by bending forward slowly while sitting in a chair, holding the position for five seconds and sitting up without arching the back. This exercise should be repeated five times. Another good exercise is a pelvic tilt, which promotes good posture. To perform it, stand against a wall with your feet 10 to 12 inches forward and press your lower back against the wall. Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.

TIPS

  • Always check with your physician before taking any medication to relieve back pain. Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol®, is generally safe to take during pregnancy. Pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, including Advil® and Motrin®, should be avoided.
  • Some back pain may indicate something more serious than discomfort. A low, dull backache, for example, occurring in a pattern (specific intervals) could mean preterm labor. Severe back pain coupled with vaginal bleeding or discharge warrants immediate medical attention.