Causes of Back Labor and How to Prevent It

It is not uncommon for women to be diagnosed with back labor during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Birth and labor are both physically and emotionally demanding – just ask any new mom! To tackle this amazing challenge, many recommend that women exercise, eat well, and become more educated about labor during pregnancy. That includes learning about back labor.

What is back labor?

Back labor is usually due to the baby’s head pressing against your lower back, especially if your baby is facing your abdomen. The ideal position is having the baby facing your posterior. When the baby faces your abdomen, the back of her head presses up against your lower back (as in the photo below) – hence the pain.

The baby’s position is only one cause of back labor. According to

“Some research has shown that a woman who experiences back pain during her menstrual cycle may be more likely to experience back labor regardless of the baby’s position.”

What are the symptoms of back labor?

During labor, you may experience cramping or soreness in your lower back. Severe discomfort in between contractions that gets much worse during contractions is a sure sign of back labor.

How is the condition treated?

If the cause is fetal positioning, certain techniques can be used to help the baby change positions.  It’s also a good idea to use techniques to re-position the baby if the cause is unknown.

Back labor can also be relieved by getting the mother off her back.

Techniques to re-position baby:

  • Squatting and lunging; this helps open your pelvis.
  • Pelvic tilts. Movements such as hula hooping, rocking, and swaying helps the baby rotate in the womb and move downwards towards the birth canal.
  • Get on all fours; the floor or bed is fine. Getting on all fours helps the baby rotate evenly in the womb and may cause her to re-position itself.
  • Sitting backward on a chair or the toilet.

How to ease the discomfort:
  • Apply a hot or cold compress to the lower back.
  • Counter pressure may help you get some relief.
  • Use hydrotherapy such as a shower birth pool or a warm bath.
  • Apply pressure using something that rolls down the back such as a tennis ball or water bottle.

Will this condition cause a complication for my baby or me?

Back labor in itself cannot harm the baby; however, it can make it more difficult for the baby to make it through the birth canal. For this reason, the mother is at risk of fatigue and becomes unable to push. Due to this, mothers with back pain may:

  • need pain medication
  • require an episiotomy
  • have to undergo a cesarean delivery

Is there any way to prevent it?

There is no way to know for sure, but if you have experienced it with previous pregnancies, you’re at a higher risk of experiencing it. Steps can be taken to help increase the chances of your baby being in a favorable position at the time of delivery.

  • Spend some time each day sitting on an exercise ball.
  • Sit in positions that keep your knees lower than the hips. Don’t spend too much time sitting in recliners and other deep chairs.
  • Do pelvic tilts.
  • Visit a chiropractor regularly during pregnancy.

During labor:
  • Don’t stay on your back. If you need to lie down, lie on your side or in a tilted position.
  • If you feel like sitting, sit backward on a toilet or chair.
  • Sway, sit on a ball, or lean. Choose any gravity-friendly positions.

This painful and very stressful condition can be managed with proper knowledge. Have you ever experienced back labor with your pregnancies? Please share this post if you have any pregnant friends.



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