Back pain and pelvic floor pre & post pregnancy 2016

Guest blog by Emma from Stay Active Physiotherapy based in Norwich on pre & post pregnancy she welcomes babies & children to appointments,  perfect if you struggle to sort childcare.

Pregnancy and giving birth puts tremendous stress on a woman’s body. Many elements are affected, due to the changes in posture, biomechanics (the way we move), hormones and of course increased weight. The back, pelvis, hips and pelvic floor take a huge amount of strain which can cause problems well after the baby is born. This article mainly focuses on pelvic floor problems, the pelvis, and the lower back.

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is put under considerable strain in the antenatal and postpartum periods of pregnancy. Contrary to popular relief, most damage is done during the antenatal period. Hormones and the gradual weight gain from the growing baby, uterus, and fluid retention stretch muscle fibers, making them weak. The pelvic floor is an important group of muscles that acts as a kind of sling to prevent prolapse. It is an essential muscle group that helps to avoid leakage from the bladder and bowel, whilst also being an important part of your sex life and of course, helping to assist the delivery of your baby during childbirth. It can experience damage no matter what type of delivery you have. Even ladies who have delivered through cesarean section are likely to have difficulties postpartum. The pelvic floor is still a subject that most ladies are reluctant to talk about however problems with it are more common than we think. It is estimated that following childbirth, a staggering 50% of women suffer from symptoms of bladder and bowel dysfunction, resulting in incontinence and prolapse.

What can be done to help?

Many of these problems are preventable if basic exercises are done during pregnancy. The most common type of incontinence is urinary, this falls into many categories however the most common are stress (leaking when you cough, sneeze or jump) and urge incontinence (when you are unable to control the urge to go to the toilet). There are two different types of exercises to prevent or help these problems; one set is fast contractions of your pelvic floor muscles and the other are slow holds of your pelvic floor. These are too specific to cover in this article and you should get a Chartered Physiotherapist to talk you through them. I cannot stress enough how important it is to do pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy; some easy and basic exercises can prevent problems that will affect your body and quality of life later on in pregnancy, following the birth of your child and in your future life.


Back pain.

The pelvic floor muscles also help to prevent back pain ante and postnatally. All the pelvic floor muscles work to control the pelvis and work with the lower back and abdominal muscles to support the spine. Back, pelvic and hip pain is common during pregnancy and can range from a mild ache to debilitating pain. If not treated during pregnancy, it can continue well after giving birth and may re-occur with future pregnancies. In brief, a woman’s posture changes considerably during pregnancy. The increase in weight around the abdomen shifts the lower body forwards, causing the lower back to arch. Changes at the pelvis also take place, particularly depending on how the baby lies and how well the woman’s body can cope with the weight of the baby and uterus. Growing breasts will cause the upper back to lean forwards and this may become sore and stiff.


What can I do to help my back?

It is important that you keep a check on your posture and try to do some form of low impact exercise-walking, swimming, yoga, and Pilates are all excellent and safe activities. Try and look for antenatal yoga and Pilates. There are even some antenatal aquafit classes about which are also very good. If the pain is severe, you may need to see a Physiotherapist for more specific exercises and manual treatment. Many elements of being a Mum, such as picking up a heavy and wriggling baby/toddler, lifting car seats and pushing a buggy, can put extra strain on your back, pelvis and pelvic floor, even if you had no symptoms during pregnancy. It is important to look after yourself and keep yourself strong and fit so you can enjoy your new bundle of joy to the maximum and pain-free. May I say congratulations on your pregnancy or birth of your baby.


BSc. (Hons) Physiotherapy.

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