back labor
Labor and Delivery

A Guide To Back Labor And How To Avoid It

Back labor can be challenging. Find out what causes this intense back pain during labor, how you can prevent it, and what you can do to ease the pain.


What Is Back Labor?

We use the term back labor to describe the intense pain in the lower back that is felt by some moms during labor. This pain is usually continuous and tends to be felt alongside normal contractions. Back labor brings a whole new set of challenges to labor and delivery.


Back Labor Symptoms

  • Severe pain in the lower back that does not ease up and intensifies during a contraction
  • An irregular pattern of contractions
  • Normal contractions may not begin immediately after your waters break
  • Slow progressing labor
  • The pushing stage is often prolonged with back labor


What Causes Back Labor?

The most common cause of back labor is the position of the baby.

If your baby is facing outward, towards your abdomen then the head could put pressure on your tailbone causing intense pain during labor.

This odd positioning is called the occiput posterior position or sunny side up.

Sometimes, the baby will be in this position and then flip to the correct position before labor begins.

If this happens you may still experience back labor as your back will still be very sensitive.

If you have a short torso, bad posture, or a previous back injury you could be more likely to have back pain during labor.

It is also thought that women who have menstrual pain in their back are more likely to experience back labor.



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How You Can Avoid Back Labor

The best thing you can do to help avoid back labor is to try to encourage your baby to get into a good position.


Sit On A Birthing Ball 

You can spend some time sitting on a birthing ball while gently rotating your pelvis. This will encourage your baby to drop into a nice low position as well as increasing your flexibility.


Woman in back labor


Keep A Good Posture

Try to keep a good posture as slouching can encourage your baby’s spine to gravitate towards the back of your body. This can cause increased back pain once labor begins.


Go Swimming 

Any form of regular gentle exercise is good for you during pregnancy. However, swimming on your front is especially helpful in encouraging your baby into the correct position.



Back labor

Get On All Fours

Get down on the floor on all fours lowering your arms and head while keeping your bottom up. Gravity will help to get your baby to move out of your pelvis and into a better position.


Visit A Chiropractor

A chiropractor or massage therapist will help to loosen your muscles and ligaments which will help give your baby a chance to move. Chiropractors who are trained in the Webster Technique work with pregnant women and can help adjust the spine and pelvis to help get baby moving.


Unfortunately these methods don’t guarantee that your baby will change position. So even if you have done everything you can there is a chance you may find yourself in back labor.


Here are some handy tips to help you relieve the pain and be as comfortable as possible.


Tips For Relieving Back Labor


Use Heat

Taking a warm shower or bath can help to ease your back pain. The heat from the water will help to soothe and relax tense muscles. You could also apply a heat pack or hot water bottle to your back.


Try To Stay On The Move

Walking it out during painful contractions may help to decrease the pain. You could also may use of the birthing ball and straddle it while gently rotating your pelvis. This can help to expand your pelvis ready for birth.


Don’t Lie On Your Back

Try to put as little pressure on your back as possible. Lie on your side or get on all fours. This help to relieve the pressure and ease your pain. A pregnancy pillow can help.


Try A Back Massage

Ask your birthing partner to gently massage your back. This will help to relieve the pain, relax you and, ease the tension in your muscles.


Change Positions Frequently 

If you feel that you can’t keep moving around then try minimise the pressure by changing positions as often as possible. Try to time yourself and regularly change your position from side to side and on to all fours. This can help to encourage your baby to move.


Consider Your Medication Options

Back labor can be extremely painful and exhausting. The pain can be relentless and sometimes things can move very slowly. If you are weak from exhaustion and fighting the pain your body will may be unable to take over and do what needs to be done. Stress may also take its toll and it is probably worthwhile thinking about pain relief if things are taking a while to progress. 


A lot of women recoil in horror at the thought of an epidural, but there are lots of options available and it is something you should think about when writing your birth plan. 

Back labor isn’t easy but can be managed, and of course it will be all worth it when your little one arrives.


Woman in back labor


A Guide To Back Labor And How To Avoid It

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