Your baby's size, your new weight distribution, fluid retention and other changes brought about by hormones may all contribute to a variety of innocent aches and pains when you're 9 months pregnant. These include low back pain, pressure and soreness in the pelvis, leg cramps, foot discomfort, heartburn, constipation and other discomforts such as the occasional jab to the ribs from a little elbow or knee. However, sudden, severe or worsening aches and pains, sometimes indicate a problem that warrants medical attention. So if in doubt, contact your healthcare provider.
Low Back Pain and Aches
Fifty to 76 percent of pregnant women report low back pain, according to a June 2007 study in "European Spine Journal." Carrying your weight out in front and having stretched abdominal muscles can mean more back strain and less back support. Joint-loosening hormones can also factor into aches and pains. You may notice some discomfort in your ribs as they are squeezed to make more room for your baby. In the pelvis, pressure on a large nerve can produce sciatica -- a kind of back pain that may run from your low back to your feet and may involve numbness or pain in your buttocks and legs.
Nighttime leg cramps affect as many as 50 percent of pregnant women and are common in the third trimester, according to a November 2014 study published in the journal "Family Practice." While the causes are not entirely clear, low levels of magnesium -- a mineral important for muscle function -- may be to blame. Leg cramps are usually innocent, but be alert to the difference between a fleeting calf muscle cramp and signs of a blood clot in the leg, which requires immediate medical attention. These signs include:
-- swelling of one leg
-- tenderness or pain in the swollen leg
-- redness or warmth of the affected leg
Something called pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain is a relatively common pregnancy complaint. The pain may be on one or both sides, in the front or back of your pelvis, and may also include pain and clicking in your hips. The discomfort may be described as stabbing, dull, shooting or burning pain. The causes are not completely understood but may include loosened ligaments due to pregnancy hormones, changes in the way joints move, and factors that run in the family.
Feet, Wrists and Hands
Increased blood volume and fluid retention in pregnancy can result in swelling, tight-fitting shoes and achy feet. Pregnancy also increases the risk for carpal tunnel syndrome -- compression of a nerve in your wrist -- often with numbness and tingling in the hand. Burning pain in the wrist is also possible. Talk with your doctor about these symptoms, and about normal versus abnormal swelling.
Heartburn and Bowel Discomfort
Both acid reflux and constipation are common in pregnancy, and may become more common as you approach your due date. Acid reflux, or back flow of stomach contents into the esophagus, occurs in late pregnancy due to increased pressure on your stomach as your baby grows. Pregnancy hormones also relax the muscular ring that normally prevents acid reflux. Crowding and hormones are also primary causes of constipation in late pregnancy. So, heartburn, pain from constipation, gas and bloating may all cause discomfort during your ninth month of pregnancy. Eating small meals, getting enough fiber and fluids, and trying to stay active may help.
Warnings and Precautions
When in doubt about aches and pains during late pregnancy, call your doctor or midwife. Some "normal" aches and pains can be hard to distinguish from problems that require medical attention. For example, while low back pain is common as you near your due date, it can also be a symptom of a kidney infection or labor.
Seek immediate medical attention for severe or persistent abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding or spotting, menstrual-like cramping or contractions before 37 weeks, urination with pain or burning, abnormal swelling, visual disturbances, fever or vomiting.
Reviewed by: Tina M. St. John, M.D.