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Back pain during pregnancy is common.  There is an abundance of research and discussion amongst soon to be mothers about how to prevent back pain while you are pregnant, including yoga class, core strengthening, pelvic floor exercise and generally staying active.   Something we seem to discuss less is how to prevent lower back pain AFTER the new bundle of joy makes their arrival. Research suggests up to 40% of postpartum mothers experience lower back pain within 6 months of delivery.

Giving birth is an arduous and exhausting process mentally and physically. After watching my wife give birth to our son, Colin, my levels of respect and appreciation towards my wife soared to new heights.  I would say such things as “I can’t believe how hard that looked!” And “we probably wouldn’t have children if I was the one giving birth!” My wife did not experience lower back pain while she was pregnant, but she did have difficulty after giving birth due to a myriad of factors contributing towards increasing load on her lumbar spine.

The first factor is hormonal.   Mothers while pregnant and continuing for months after birth, have a significant increase in the release of the hormone relaxin.  Relaxin works to relax the ligaments of the pelvis to prepare the body for childbirth. Research shows that relaxin typically stays in the new mothers body for anywhere between 5 and 12 months after birth.  The length of time that relaxin stays within the body relates to how long the new mother breast feeds her baby.

While the new mother has relaxin coursing through her body, she will undergo a new task, which is repetitively lifting and lowering her newborn.  This is complicated by the fact that the young child will continue to gain weight at a rapid rate! Making it even more difficult for your core musculature and lumbar spine to adjust to the load.  

The new mother will also likely have difficulty with sleeping in the first few months! This will increase the difficulty concentrating on proper form while lifting and lowering the baby! Sleep deprivation (while torturous) significantly reduces the ability to focus on the task as hand, which is protecting the baby and also protecting the mother!

Not only is the new weight lifting regimen difficult, some mothers have difficulty sitting for long periods as well.  Due to the frequency of breastfeeding a new baby, the mother will be sitting for prolonged periods of time. This combined with the ligamentous laxity can lead to lumbar disc derangement and nerve symptoms into her lower extremities.  

You may ask, “how do I prevent myself from experiencing lower back pain after giving birth?”

Why it’s physical therapy of course!

With strength training and focus on proper body mechanics with lifting, many of the lower back pain symptoms mother’s experience can be significantly mitigated and eliminated. Just remember to take it one day at a time!

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