Whether a couple is trying to conceive or hoping to avoid pregnancy, the two-week wait between ovulation and a positive or negative pregnancy test can be emotionally stressful. While some women will find they experience no symptoms of early pregnancy whatsoever, others have nausea, fatigue, sore breasts and a host of other early signs of pregnancy. Without a doubt, one of the most uncomfortable of the early pregnancy symptoms—and one of the most common—is backache. Unfortunately, backache often manifests prior to the first missed period, and extends throughout the entire pregnancy.
As a sign of early pregnancy—that is, a symptom manifesting before a missed menstrual period or positive test—backache can be somewhat ambiguous. While American Pregnancy suggests that backache often occurs very early in pregnancy, it’s also a common symptom of menstruation. As such, it can lead to confusion as to whether a child has been conceived or the menstrual flow is about to start. Stress, too, can lead to backache, further confusing this as a sign of early pregnancy.
Many women find that their low back pain begins just a few days after conception, while others don’t experience it until well into the first trimester, if at all. Most women, notes the March of Dimes, do experience back pain at some point during their pregnancy—if not before, than certainly during the third trimester when the increasing weight of the fetus puts stress on the mother’s body. As a sign of early pregnancy, however, many women will find that (at least in retrospect) they did in fact experience some back pain even before their positive pregnancy test.
There are lots of reasons for backache late in pregnancy—the growing fetus and growing breasts strain the body and bend the spine. Early on, however, there is no physical stress on the mother’s body, so the reason for early pregnancy back pain is a bit less obvious. “Parenting,” a website for expectant mothers and couples, notes that back pain can be due to loosening ligaments. The hormones responsible for relaxing a mother’s body in preparation for birth begin to be secreted very early in pregnancy—often before the mother even knows she’s pregnant. While these hormones will be very useful later, allowing the baby to pass through the pelvic girdle and into the world, early on they’re merely annoying. Loosening ligaments can mean misalignment of the back, and subsequent aching.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides several suggestions for alleviating the back pain of early pregnancy. Good posture is key for minimizing back pain. Staying active can strengthen back muscles and ease back pain. Apply heat or cold light while lightly massaging the sore areas to soothe painful areas.
American Pregnancy emphasizes that all women are different in early pregnancy. While knowing what others have experienced may be helpful to a woman in determining whether she is pregnant, only a pregnancy test or visit to the doctor will provide absolute proof. It’s best for women who suspect they are pregnant, whether or not they are experiencing backache and other classic early pregnancy symptoms, to eat a nutritious diet, avoid alcohol and cigarettes, and stay away from harsh chemicals until the pregnancy has been confirmed.