Lower back pain may be a sign of early pregnancy, as changing hormones, the shifting uterus, and weakened abdominal muscles can all contribute to pain.
Lower back pain is common in pregnancy, during both the early and later stages. Around 50% of pregnant women experience lower back pain at some stage of pregnancy. Research suggests that lower back pain is more common in the second trimester, although it is not uncommon during the early stages.
This article discusses whether lower back pain is a sign of early pregnancy, what the pain feels like, other signs of early pregnancy, and pregnancy testing. It also looks at how to treat lower back pain.
Lower back pain can be a sign of early pregnancy.
As the uterus grows and shifts, it weakens and stretches the abdominal muscles and changes a person’s center of gravity. The abdominal muscles support the back, and these changes can cause stress to the joints and muscles of the back.
These changes can also affect a person’s posture, placing further strain on the joints and muscles.
Additionally, the body releases pregnancy hormones that relax the ligaments in the joints of the pelvis to help make them more flexible. When the joints become too loose, they may contribute to pain in the lower back.
Because a person’s abdominal muscles are stretched and weaker during pregnancy, the risk of injury during exercise is also higher than usual.
Pregnant people may experience different types of lower back pain, and the intensity and onset can differ.
Some people said that lying down, engaging in physical activity, standing, lifting heavy objects, or bending made their lower back pain worse. Most said their pain was worse at night and least severe in the morning. Lying down may worsen pain because the weight of the pelvis can push against the uterus in this position.
Pregnancy does not always cause symptoms in the early stages, and symptoms that occur may have other causes. If someone suspects they may be pregnant, they can take a pregnancy test.
Signs of early pregnancy include:
- a missed or lighter-than-usual menstrual period
- pain, tenderness, swelling, or other changes in the breasts
- bloating or gas in the belly
- mild cramping in the pelvis
- fatigue or tiredness
- nausea, vomiting, or both
- cravings for certain foods or suddenly aversions to certain foods
- heightened sense of smell
- increased body temperature
- frequent urination
- mood swings
If a person suspects they are pregnant, they should take a pregnancy test. Two types are available.
Home pregnancy tests
If a person takes a home pregnancy test according to the instructions and gets a positive result, the test is typically correct. A negative result may be less reliable, and a person should retake the test a week later or contact a doctor to receive a clinical test.
For a home urine test, a person will usually urinate on a testing stick, according to the instructions. The level of a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the urine will cause a strip on the stick to change color or display a symbol to indicate whether the test is positive.
A person can take a pregnancy test from the first day of a missed period or at least 21 days after having sex without a condom or other barrier method.
Clinical pregnancy tests
A clinical urine test is similar to a home urine test. A doctor will obtain a urine sample and test it for the presence of hCG. The level of accuracy is
A doctor may also perform a blood test to check hCG levels. A blood test may be able to detect pregnancy earlier than a urine test.
There are various ways a person may be able to help treat lower back pain while pregnant.
Home remedies for lower back pain include:
- using heating pads or cold compresses on the back for limited periods
- sitting in chairs that have good back support or using lumbar support devices or cushions while sitting
- wearing supportive shoes with arch support and low heels
- wearing supportive clothing such as abdominal support garments, which are available at maternity stores
- avoiding lifting heavy objects as much as possible
- squatting down, bending the knees, and keeping the back straight when lifting
- sleeping on one side with the knees bent and placing a pillow between the knees and under the belly
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Because of this risk, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Acetaminophen may be a safer option to treat lower back pain, although individuals should discuss this and any other medications with their doctor before taking it while pregnant.
If a person’s back pain is severe or lasts longer than 2 weeks, they should contact their doctor to rule out other potential causes such as:
- preterm labor
- kidney infection
- placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the inner lining of the uterus
Lower back pain can indicate early pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body releases a hormone that causes the ligaments in the pelvis joints to relax, and the stretching uterus can weaken abdominal muscles. This can cause stress on the joints and muscles in the back, leading to lower back pain.
The pain may feel sharp, burning, or radiating and can be persistent or temporary.
If a person has other signs of early pregnancy, such as a missed or light period, fatigue, nausea, and mood swings, they should take a pregnancy test or contact a doctor.
A pregnant person should discuss any medication with a doctor before taking it. Acetaminophen may be a safer pain relief option than NSAIDs or opioids.
There are also several home remedies and adjustments that may help treat lower back pain. These include wearing low-heeled, supportive shoes; supporting the back while sitting; and using warm pads or cold compresses.