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Pregnant and in Pain: When Parents Should Worry About Back Aches

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In some cases, back pain can be an indication of something seriously wrong with your body or your pregnancy. Allowing certain types of back pain to continue unchecked is asking either for pregnancy complications or spine issues for the rest of your life. If your back pain worsens significantly or you experience any of the following additional symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.


On one hand, numbness associated with back pain isn’t a sign of impending disaster for you or your baby. On the other hand, it could indicate a serious and persistent health problem that could affect how you feel long after you give birth. Typically, pain and numbness are symptoms of nerve compression in the spine, often in the lumbar or sciatic region, both of which get squeezed or stretched tight by pregnancy.

Considering the bounty of discomforts associated with carrying a child, a little numbness in the back might not feel significant - but left unaddressed, compression can permanently damage the nerves in your back, producing dire consequences like bladder dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, muscle atrophy, and fasciculation. Fortunately, treatment for pinched nerves in the back is relatively simple, so it shouldn’t take long for you to eliminate pain and numbness during or after your pregnancy.


Fever and pregnancy are never good together, but fever and a dull ache in your low back are an especially dangerous pair. If you can trace your pain to the sides of your back between your ribs and hips, you likely have a bladder and kidney infection that requires immediate medical attention.

Most women are familiar with the symptoms of urinary tract infections, but pregnancy introduces so many strange sensations that some women neglect to notice the burning sensation during urination or other bladder-related discomfort until the infection has spread. Once an infection reaches your kidneys, there is a significant opportunity for it to circulate to the rest of your body - including your unborn child. Left untreated, infections of this sort can cause painful contractions in the uterus, pre-term labor, and worse. As soon as possible, you should begin a regimen of antibiotics, which should clear up the infection.


Most women know when to expect their discomforts: Constipation in the mornings, aches in the evenings, nausea in the afternoons, etc. However, if your back pain isn’t exactly predictable - if it comes on sporadically and intensely - you may be suffering from one of two serious (but rare) conditions of pregnancy: arthritis or osteoporosis.

Though medical professionals remain uncertain as to the causes of arthritis and osteoporosis during pregnancy, a small percentage of women do develop joint or bone issues at some point in their lying-in - even up to a few weeks after giving birth. Though arthritis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, which isn’t likely to affect your baby, osteoporosis is more difficult to treat and has more extreme effects, such as broken bones in the spine and hip. In addition to irregular, sharp pain, you might feel especially stiff in regions affected by arthritis - but osteoporosis rarely has symptoms before a fracture or break occurs. Thus, the sooner you get your pain investigated, the better.


About 20 percent of women experience some minor spotting during the first few weeks of pregnancy. However, if you start to bleed after your first trimester - or if your bleeding is bright-red and associated with back pain - you need to contact your doctor immediately. These are serious signs of pre-term labor, and if your labor isn’t stopped soon, you could be delivering your baby before it is properly developed.

Sometimes, back pain signals pre-term labor without evidence of bleeding. If your back ache is cyclical - i.e. occurring regularly every few minutes - you are likely experiencing labor-related pains. You might also watch for discharge of any kind, especially ruptured waters. To prevent damage to you or your baby, your doctor will administer labor-ceasing drugs and prescribe medications that will speed up your baby’s development.

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