When I was in labor with my first child, I was surprised by the pain I was experiencing in my lower back. As a person with chronic lower back issues, I have become very familiar with low back pain. But back labor pain was nothing I had ever experienced before. I was unprepared for that experience!
Luckily, I had an amazing birth team who knew exactly what to do for my back labor. My midwife and doula were able to get me through the pain using many natural comfort techniques. If you are preparing for your upcoming labor and delivery, spend some time learning about back labor and the comfort techniques available to you, so you are more prepared than I was!
What is back labor?
Back labor is a normal variation of regular labor pains, but not all women experience it. Women who d0 experience it describe their labor pains as centered in the lower back area or above the sacrum. They tend to get stronger during contractions and peak at the height of the contraction. Many professionals believe that a baby’s malposition causes back labor during labor and birth (baby is “sunny side up” or occiput posterior—OP). Part of treating back labor pain is getting the baby to shift his position and relieve the pressure on the mom’s spine.
Techniques for Relieving Back Labor
Even though back labor is common, it can be very uncomfortable. Here are some techniques that laboring moms can try to help relieve the pain.
Try this pose to relieve back labor pains. Start with all fours on the floor. Slowly lower your upper body down to where your arms, head, and chest are touching the floor with your hips still pointing up toward the ceiling. This position can help give the baby room to back out of the pelvis and change position.
Stair or Curb Walking
Walk (or squat) alongside a curb or up some stairs. One leg will be on the curb while the other stays on the ground. This movement opens your hips unevenly, encouraging the baby to shift position.
Lower back massage can help to alleviate the pain and pressure of back labor. Firmer pressure is usually the most helpful, but every woman will require something different for their body. Your partner, doula, or massage therapist can do this as often as needed.
Whether in the shower or a tub of warm water, hydrotherapy can help relieve back labor pain. Resting in a tub is a wonderful way to help mom take a lot of the pressure off her pelvis as well.
It may sound strange, but applying firm pressure in the area that hurts can help relieve back labor pain. A support person can use both hands to press firmly into the lower back or sacrum area, or you can roll up a towel or use a tennis ball against a wall and press your back against it.
Heat or Ice
A heated rice sock (maybe with some essential oils, like lavender) or an ice pack can offer mom some quick relief of back labor pain.
This is a well-loved technique for relieving back pain in labor. Your support person will use their hands to squeeze together mom’s hips. The movement flares the position of the pelvis slightly, allowing the baby to adjust his position.
A TENS Unit is a handheld device that sends pulses through electrodes on pads attached to mom’s back. The unit helps to stimulate mom’s nerves and relieve pain. Using a TENS Unit during labor has been done since the 1970s, and many doulas are trained to use them safely.
Backward Chair Sitting
Many women find that sitting on a chair backward provides relief for back pain. It’s also an excellent position for the support team to have full access to mom’s back during labor.
Sterile Water Injections
This procedure involves injecting sterile water under the skin at four points on the lower back area. The injections can be momentarily painful, but the pain relief seems to last for a few hours.
These natural methods of relieving back labor pain can be very effective for most women. If you have tried these techniques and are still in considerable pain, there is always the option for an epidural if you are in the hospital. Be sure to discuss these techniques with your support team so that you can make a plan of attack before you go into labor. Including some of these comfort measures into your birth plan will help you and your birth team stay on the same page throughout your labor.
Have you experienced back pain during labor? Which of these comfort measures worked best for you?