Your pregnancy and baby guide

Back pain in pregnancy

It is very common to get backache or back pain during pregnancy, especially in the early stages.

During pregnancy, the ligaments in your body naturally become softer and stretch to prepare you for labour. This can put a strain on the joints of your lower back and pelvis, which can cause back pain.

Avoiding and easing back pain in pregnancy

Try these tips:

  • bend your knees and keep your back straight when you lift or pick something up from the floor
  • avoid lifting heavy objects
  • move your feet when you turn to avoid twisting your spine
  • wear flat shoes to evenly distribute your weight
  • try to balance the weight between 2 bags when carrying shopping
  • keep your back straight and well supported when sitting at work and at home – look for maternity support pillows
  • get enough rest, particularly later in pregnancy
  • a massage or warm bath may help
  • use a mattress that supports you properly – you can put a piece of hardboard under a soft mattress to make it firmer, if necessary
  • go to a group or individual back care class

You can take paracetamol to ease back pain while you are pregnant, unless your GP or midwife says not to. Always follow the instructions on the packet.

Exercises to ease back pain in pregnancy

This gentle exercise helps to strengthen stomach (abdominal) muscles, which can ease back pain in pregnancy:

  • start on all fours (a box position) with knees under hips, hands under shoulders, fingers facing forwards and stomach muscles lifted to keep your back straight
  • pull in your stomach muscles and raise your back up towards the ceiling, letting your head and bum relax downwards gently – don't let your elbows lock
  • hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the box position
  • take care not to hollow your back – it should always return to a straight, neutral position
  • do this slowly and rhythmically 10 times, making your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully
  • only move your back as far as you comfortably can

Doing prenatal yoga or aquanatal classes (gentle exercise classes in water) with a qualified instructor can also help build your muscles to better support your back. Ask at your local leisure centre.

When to get help for back pain in pregnancy

If your backache is very painful, talk to your GP or midwife. They may be able to refer you to an obstetric physiotherapist at your hospital, who can give you advice and may suggest some helpful exercises.

Contact your GP or midwife as soon as possible if you have back pain and you:

  • are in your second or third trimester – this could be a sign of early labour
  • also have a fever, bleeding from your vagina or pain when you pee
  • lose feeling in one or both of your legs, your bum, or your genitals
  • have pain in one or more of your sides (under your ribs)

Get tips on preventing back pain at work.

Find out about more common problems in pregnancy, including pelvic pain.

Healthtalk.org has interviews with women talking about their experiences of pelvic pain in pregnancy and how they coped.

Page last reviewed: 14/02/2018
Next review due: 14/02/2021