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Back Pain in Pregnancy

A Guest Post by Gemma Witcomb

Gemma is a local yoga teacher with classes in and around Hedge End, Bishops Waltham and Wickham. She teaches pre and postnatal yoga, fertility yoga, flow and restorative classes as well as running workshops in yoga for women’s health. Here Gemma explains some of the causes of back pain in pregnancy and what can be done to help.

In pregnancy your body goes through a huge change in a few short months. Your uterus will grow to 500 times its normal size and is full of fluid, your placenta and baby! As it grows, your uterus will stretch until it until the top of it reaches the bottom of the ribs! All of this squashes and pushes the organs out of the way and your body literally has to change shape to accommodate. This can cause all sorts of strange sensations and discomfort, and one of the most common of these is back pain.

Our spine is naturally an S shape, but during pregnancy, the curves get deeper to create space and to counterbalance the extra weight of the baby. All the muscles and ligaments of the back, pelvis and hips have to stretch and adapt to this new posture and the added weight. During pregnancy a woman’s body also produces a hormone called relaxin, which has the job of softening the connective tissues between and around joints, allowing for the pelvis to open during labour and baby to be born. Unfortunately, it also affects the other joints of the body and can cause instability in the back and pelvis which can be hard to manage and exacerbate back pain.

How does Pregnancy Yoga help?

In Pregnancy Yoga, we work on strengthening the muscles needed to support the spine and pelvis, improving posture and taking the strain off the overworked muscles and overloaded joints. We also use stretches and movement to release tension and stiffness from sore areas and to keep the body supple. The pace is slow and mindful, giving you space to connect with your body and your baby.

A pregnancy yoga class will also include some time to practice breathing exercises and techniques. Knowing how to breathe well becomes especially important during the end of the second and into the third trimester as baby grows and restricts the ability of the diaphragm to fully descend.

Proper breathing has many benefits; its lowers our heart rate, reduces pain and can help with sleep, all things that back pain can have an impact on. It’s also great birth prep!

Everyone’s body is different and you may need adaptations to make the movements and exercises work for you. That’s why it’s important to work with a teacher trained in pre-natal exercise who can adapt and modify for your unique needs.

Gemma's Top Tips for reducing and managing back pain:

  • Move regularly and in a variety of ways (flexion, extension, side bends and gentle rotations of the spine are all equally important)

  • Don’t stay in one position for too long

  • When standing and sitting, be aware of your posture, grow tall through the crown of your head and use your abdominal muscles to gently draw baby to spine

  • Go for a pregnancy massage to release tight areas

  • Use a support belt if other options aren’t working

Gemma teaches pregnancy yoga online every Thursday at 7.30pm. For more information or to register for a free trial, head to her website at

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