Lower back pain is common during pregnancy, especially as you move into the second and third trimesters. Your body is getting ready for birth, which means your ligaments become looser and softer. Coupled with the weight of the growing baby in your belly, this can put a strain on your lower back and pelvis, leading to an aching back.
While some discomfort is an inevitable part of being pregnant, there are things you can do to ease your back pain and reduce the strain on your body.
A warm (but not hot) bath or a prenatal massage can both ease tight muscles and help you relax. Being aware of your posture is also important – try to remember to keep your back straight, especially when sitting.
Avoid movements like twisting and bending that can make back pain worse. If you can, try not to carry heavy objects too much – easier said than done if you have other young children to care for. When you do have to carry things, keep the weight evenly distributed as much as possible.
At night, sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees can help to alleviate back pain and give you a better night’s rest.
Although you might not feel much like moving when your back is sore, gentle exercise during pregnancy can also be great for preventing and relieving back pain. It helps to keep you strong and flexible.
Swimming and walking are both low-impact exercises that can be brilliant for keeping you active during pregnancy. And, of course, prenatal yoga is also a lovely option for stretching sore muscles and building strength and mobility.
If you are new to yoga, it’s best to start by attending a dedicated prenatal yoga class. Specially trained yoga teachers can teach you poses safely and help you adapt them to suit the needs of your body and growing baby.
However, if you want to supplement your practice in class with some yoga at home, here are some of our favorite poses that target the lower back.
Technically two poses, cat and cow are usually used together in a sequence that opens the chest, stretches the back, and increases mobility through the spine. It also gently activates your core, helping to support your back and improve your posture.
Start from a tabletop position, on your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are under your shoulders and your knees are in a straight line with your hips.
As you inhale, drop your belly down and lift your chest and sit bones, coming into cow pose.
Then, exhale as you round through your back, tucking your belly, chin, and tailbone in and arching your spine up towards the ceiling.
Repeat the sequence a few more times, moving in time with your breath.
This standing pose helps lengthen the spine while strengthening the hamstrings and providing balance in the legs. Since lower back pain is often associated with tightness in the legs and hips, this is a great option to try during pregnancy.
Pyramid pose can test your balance a little, especially when your center of gravity isn’t where it used to be. Come into it slowly, use props such as a chair or blocks, and pay attention to your body. Don’t push yourself beyond what feels right.
Place a chair or two blocks about 1 foot in front of you. Start by standing in Mountain Pose placing your hands on your hips. Step your left foot back about 3 to 4 feet so that it faces forward but is angled slightly outward keeping your hips facing forward as possible as your body allows.
Take a deep inhale to lengthen the spine, ground both feet onto the floor and then with your exhale fold forward from the hips slightly extending your chest to place your hands onto the chair or the blocks. As you take a few breaths, press both feet into the floor, being careful to allow your right hip to draw back more instead of inward. Look forward and smile.
Hold for a few breaths and then gently place your hands back onto your hips. Inhale to ground your feet while rising up to stand and then step your left foot forward back into Mountain Pose. Repeat this pose on the other side.
There are plenty of variations of the standing forward fold, a pose that helps to stretch out your back and legs, releasing tension in your spine.
Start by standing straight, feet parallel and weight evenly distributed across both feet. Ground down through your feet and stretch your arms upward as you inhale. Then, exhale and bend forward from the hips, allowing your head and neck to relax down towards the floor.
During pregnancy, we’re not trying to fold ourselves right down to our legs. Leave yourself enough room to accommodate your growing belly. You can widen your stance to give yourself more room – perhaps have your feet hip-distance apart instead of together. Bend your knees as much as you need to.
You can rest your hands down on the floor or onto two yoga blocks. There’s also the option to take hold of each elbow with the opposite hand or interlace your hands at the back of your neck.
Allow the weight of your upper body to lengthen out your spine, providing a beautiful release for your lower back.
Poses that focus on stretching the side body can also feel wonderful when your lower back is sore and aching. While we want to avoid twists during pregnancy, one option that is safe and easy to do is seated side stretch.
As well as stretching and mobilizing the spine, this pose helps to open the hips and release tension in your shoulders.
Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position, with your right leg in front. You can sit on a folded blanket or a cushion if it is more comfortable.
Make sure your back is straight. Place both hands on the floor by your sides as you lengthen up through your spine.
Taking an inhale, stretch your right arm up. Keep your left hand on the floor but slide it slightly further away to give yourself more room. On your next exhale, bend over toward the left, extending your right arm over your head, reaching your fingers to the left.
Keep both sit bones on the floor as you hold the pose for a few breaths. Inhale to come back up, then cross your legs the other way and repeat the move on the other side.
A restful and restorative pose, child’s pose is also a lovely way to gently stretch the back, thighs, and hips. You can be as active as you like with this pose, depending on what your body and mind need on any given day.
Child’s pose is also a great option when you’re feeling stressed, tired, or overwhelmed.
During pregnancy, it is important to give your belly plenty of space when you come into child’s pose to avoid compressing the abdomen.
Start on all fours. Bring your big toes together and open your knees out wide. Sit your hips back toward your heels.
Stretch your arms out in front of you. You can rest your head down on the mat or use a block, bolster, or folded blanket for extra support.
If you want to make the pose a bit more active stretch, concentrate on lengthening out through your arms and spine as you inhale, and reaching your tailbone back towards your feet when you exhale.
Alternatively, you can relax more into the pose, allowing your arms to rest on the floor and letting go of any tightness or tension in your body. Use your breath to help you release deeper into the pose, embracing the chance to slow down.
Goddess is our dedicated prenatal yoga class, held in our beautiful studio in the Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania area. Classes last one hour and include poses that are safe during pregnancy, as well as meditation, breathwork, and affirmations to help you prepare your body and mind for birth.
Partners are welcome to come along too. You can attend classes in person or via live stream. We also do private sessions in the studio or in the comfort of your own home – please get in touch if you’d like to know more.