What Causes Pregnancy Aches and Pains?

by Dr. Shaila Callaghan
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Expecting a baby can be an exciting time, but it can also be full of new aches and pains for the mommy to be. Back pain is one of the most common side effects of pregnancy, and up to 80% of pregnant women complain of moderate to debilitating back and leg pain. It is important to stay active and mobile during your entire pregnancy, so knowing how to prevent and manage pregnancy-induced aches and pains is a must!

What causes these aches and pains during pregnancy

A) Hormones! Most specifically, the pregnancy hormone “relaxin” which begins to circulate through our systems in the first trimester. Relaxin’s job is to soften and loosen the ligaments of the pelvis in preparation for delivery of your bundle of joy. Unfortunately, hormones cannot only target these specific ligaments of the pelvis and the end result is a direct negative effect on the tensile strength of all the ligaments in your body. Of course, this ligamentous laxity is completely normal during pregnancy, however it is a main cause for a lot of those aches and pains you may be experiencing.

B) Your growing uterus. As your baby grows and develops, your uterus enlarges along with it. This causes your center of gravity to change and, in effect, will alter your posture and the normal position of your spine.

As your center of gravity moves forward, increased pressure is added to your spinal joints. With these postural changes, you are forced to change the way you behave – the way you sit, stand, and reach for your mug in the morning to name a few. This change in behavior causes new and and often underused muscles to become increasingly active, which can cause seemingly simple movements to lead to painful sprains and strains. Additionally, to support your growing belly, your abdominal muscles are forced to expand which causes them to lose most of their ability to keep your spine erect and stable. This lack of stability, in addition to the changes in your center of gravity and postural alterations are a leading cause of those aches and pains you may be experiencing.

C) The growing weight of your baby. As the months go by, your baby will inevitably gain weight, and this increasing weight can put pressure on the nerves that lie in your pelvis. Sciatic nerve pain – or a burning/shooting sensation felt into the buttocks and possibly down the leg – is a common complaint among pregnant women, especially into the third trimester.

If this is not your first pregnancy there are additional concerns regarding your aches and pains. If you experienced them in your previous pregnancies, the chances of them showing up again are increased, and they tend to rear their ugly heads even earlier than before. As well, additional children, especially young ones that require more physical attention, can lead to pains as lifting, carrying, bathing and overall care for them becomes more strenuous as you get bigger.


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