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Melbourne Midwifery

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Avoiding Back Pain and Other Health Problems During Pregnancy

Expecting a baby is an exciting time for a couple, but it can also be a source of tremendous anxiety, especially for new parents, but even for parents of many children.  Physiological and hormonal shifts that accompany the process of growing a new life only amplify the anxiety that tends to come naturally with such a major life change.

Over the course of the average pregnancy, a mother-to-be will gain somewhere between 10 and 15 kgs (22-33 pounds).  Gaining this much weight in such a short period of time, is only one of many changes a woman experiences while pregnant.  These changes can lead to a variety of complaints, not least of which is lower back pain.  As the baby grows larger, and especially in the last several weeks of pregnancy, the weight of the baby places pressure on the sciatic nerves, causing pain and discomfort in the legs and lower back.

As baby grows larger, the mother’s center of gravity shifts significantly to the front of the pelvis, increasing pressure on the joints.  Baby grows a little larger yet, and the lumbar curve changes, placing greater stress on the discs of the vertebrae.  These changes can lead to issues with balance, which in turn present a danger of trips and falls.  To mitigate these issues, here are some recommendations. may feel like the last thing you want to do while pregnant and feeling miserable, but it is strongly recommended.  When done carefully, exercise can strengthen the core, ease discomfort and improve balance.  The best exercises during pregnancy are low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, stationary cycling and some yoga (but avoid poses that place you flat on your back for extended periods or other poses that cause discomfort).  If you ran regularly before becoming pregnant and wish to continue, talk to your doctor to make sure you don’t have any conditions that might make it dangerous.  Exercise sessions should be short, about 15 minutes, and heart rate should not be elevated over 140 beats a minute.

High heels can magnify balance issues, so they should be traded for flats or at least lower heels.  You should also avoid heavy lifting.  If it cannot be avoided, such as with older children, bend at the knees, lift with your legs and keep the weight close to your body.

It is important to get plenty of rest while pregnant.  Your changing body may make this difficult or uncomfortable.  Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees will help relieve pressure on your lower back. Either side is okay, but laying on your left side is better as it improves blood flow, helps the kidneys work more efficiently and helps minimize heartburn by keeping stomach lower than the esophagus and stomach acid where it belongs.

If you work at a desk, try to make it as ergonomically efficient as you can.  Adjusting your computer monitor and your chair height or getting a foot rest can go a long way to making you more comfortable through the day.  You should also take frequent breaks.  Even just getting up and refilling your water cup, or doing a few minutes of filing can help.

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