Back pain, pregnancy, and childbirth

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7087.1062 (Published 12 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1062

Postpartum pain is most likely to be a continuation of antepartum pain

  1. Robin Russell, Consultant anaesthetista,
  2. Felicity Reynolds, Emeritus professorb
  1. a John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU
  2. b Division of Anaesthetics, St Thomas's Hospital, London SE1 7EH

    Backache is a common symptom in women of childbearing age. With as many as half of women reporting back pain at some stage during pregnancy,1 2 3 it is perhaps not surprising that many of their carers dismiss it as unimportant. But backache in pregnancy is a substantial problem. Many women are helped by understanding the likely cause of the pain and by advice on prevention and management.

    There seems to be little difference in the prevalence of backache between pregnant and non-pregnant women.3 4 Of Swedish women questioned between the ages of 38 and 64, two thirds reported experiencing back pain at some time, and only a minority said that it had started in pregnancy.3 4 However, backache experienced during pregnancy is more severe and disabling and present for a greater proportion of the time.1 About 10% of women may be prevented by it from working,2 and over a third report that it interferes with daily life.3

    Though non-specific low back pain (radiating classically to buttocks and thighs) is experienced by both pregnant and non-pregnant women, more severe pain arising from sacroiliac dysfunction is particular to pregnancy. It increases in prevalence with gestation concentrations and is often associated with symphyseal pain.2 3 Relaxin, a polypeptide hormone that regulates collagen, softens the ligaments in preparation for parturition. …

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