A woman undergoes certain changes in her body during pregnancy, which are extensive and temporary, to provide the requirements like oxygen and nutrients for the growing fetus and to be able to meet her demands due to the increase in metabolism in preparation for labour and birth and lactation.
These changes occur gradually and can lead to discomforts such as nausea and vomiting, frequent urination, and fatigue. Another common discomfort felt by the pregnant woman is low back pain, which will be the focus of this article.
Low back pain is generally caused by problems in the musculoskeletal and urinary systems. It may be due to obesity, postural and structural problems, overstretching of the spinal supports and stress. Pain in the lower back is a usual sign of pregnancy due to the additional load carried by the mother, giving additional strain on the back. The increase in size and weight of the fetus causes the mother to change her centre of gravity thus, leading to postural problems. The pregnant woman stands straighter than normal with the shoulders back and the abdomen forward–also known as the “pride of pregnancy”–creating a Lordosis (the forward curve of the lumbar spine). This curving of the spine is the primary cause of lower back pain in pregnancy.
Low back pain in pregnancy is not typical; it is considered serious if it is experienced as waves of pain (a sign of preterm labour); accompanied by urinary symptoms such as pain felt during urination (Urinary tract infection); the back was tender at the point of backache (kidney infection); and if the pain was not relieved by rest (muscle strain).
To decrease the pain felt by the pregnant woman in her lower back, she should maintain proper posture and wear appropriate clothing. Wearing shoes with low or minimal heels can reduce the needed spinal curvature in maintaining an upright position or posture, this lessens the risk for low back pain. The pregnant woman should be encouraged to walk with her pelvis tilted forward (putting pelvic support under the weight of the fetus) for the maintenance of proper posture and balance. Application of local heat is also advised because heat causes vasodilation which then increases and improves the blood flow throughout the body, thus, relieving the low back pain. The pregnant woman should be advised also to practice squatting instead of bending over when picking objects on the floor to avoid straining the back which can lead to low back pain. She may be encouraged to hold objects close to her body when lifting them to lessen the weight and force that may strain her lower back and alter her posture and balance. Sleeping on a firm mattress with feet elevated may help the pregnant woman feel more relaxed. Pelvic rocking or tilting may also help in easing lower back pain.
The pregnant woman should not take herbal remedies, muscle relaxants, analgesics or other medications for low back pain without first consulting their physician for it may cause bleeding problems or may be harmful for the fetus. Generally, acetaminophen can be taken because of its effectiveness and safety in relieving lower back pain among pregnant women.
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