The pains of labor are typically associated with the belly and perineal area. However, some women do experience pain in the lower back as part of their labor process. Most often, back labor pain is contributed to the baby coming down the birth canal in a posterior position–instead of the baby’s face pressing against the mom’s tailbone during labor, it is the back, bony side (posterior) of the baby’s head that is being pressed against the mom’s tailbone during contractions.
Back labor pain can be felt in the last few weeks of pregnancy through delivery. If the baby is in the posterior position, the mom’s may feel back labor pain as the baby descends in the birth canal, starting at the end of pregnancy, and until the baby is born.
Back labor pain is different than the general aches and pains of pregnancy and the typical pain of labor and delivery. Some women may be in significant discomfort during the last month to weeks of their pregnancy. This is common and may not be back labor. Pregnancy is difficult on the body and on the back in particular. Aches and pains toward the end of your pregnancy do not mean certain back labor pain during your labor.
If the mom-to-be is experiencing back labor pain, there are a few things you can try to alleviate or lessen the pain. Changing positions may be helpful–being on hands and knees will help decrease the pressure of the baby’s head pushing on the mom’s tailbone during contractions may bring significant relief. Massages to the lower back and tail bone will provide counter pressure that will also help. Heat packs or a warm bath may also be beneficial. If the mom is in intolerable pain, you can also ask for medicinal intervention, such as an epidural or a narcotic.
Turn the Baby
If you are experiencing back labor pain, your health care provider may want to try turning your baby. Using different positions during labor will sometimes stimulate the baby to move and rotate. A vacuum extractor or forceps may also be used to rotate the baby to the more favorable position for delivery. Rotating the baby can be done successfully, but it can also interrupt the flow of labor and cause a slow down in contractions or even failure to progress, resulting in a Caesarean-section. Ask your health care provider before labor begins how they manage back labor and if they use forceps or the vacuum extractor and what the specific risks and concerns may be.
Back labor may come and go as the baby makes his way through the birth canal, changing and adapting positions as the process continues. Back labor pain is different than traditional labor pains in that it seems to originate in back and hip area and then move on to the abdomen. Because back labor pain is different than women are expecting, it can be frightening. Ask questions if you are concerned or are uncomfortable with the way your labor is progressing.
About this Author
Lara Alspaugh is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Michigan State University. She is a faculty member at Lansing Community College in the nursing department. Her work can be found on ModernMom.com and SmarterBaby.com as well as many print magazines and newspapers.