Back Labor: Why Does It Happen And How To Get Relief?

Techniques To Deal With Back Labor

Image: Shutterstock

Usually, labor pain is sensed in the abdominal area. But some women have an intense pain in the back. Such pain towards the final stages of pregnancy may be an indication of the onset of labor.

In this post, Momjunction helps you understand the reasons for back labor and the ways to deal with this unbearable pain.

What Is Back Labor?

The intense pain felt in the lower back during the labor is known as back labor. It can be felt during and in between the contractions and occurs when the backside of the baby’s head presses to your lower back.

There could be several other reasons for back labor. Therefore, make sure to go to the hospital if you start feeling strong and frequent pain in your lower back.

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What Are The Reasons For Back Labor?

The back labor can occur due to different reasons. A few of them are listed below (1) (2) (3):

  1. The position of the baby: As shown in the below image, the optimal position of the baby inside the womb during labor is occiput anterior, wherein the baby’s head is down facing your back.
What Are The Reasons For Back Labor

Image: Shutterstock

However, if the baby is in occiput posterior (OP), wherein the head of the baby is down but facing your stomach, then the back of your baby’s head puts pressure on the sacrum. This causes intense back pain, which gets more painful with the contractions. Moreover, the OP position may delay cervical dilation, thus extending the labor.

  1. Overweight: Overweight or obesity may have its bearing on the lower back. A sedentary lifestyle during pregnancy, coupled with overweight, can make the matters worse.

[ Read: Labor Pain Management Techniques ]

  1. Scoliosis: A sideways curvature of the mother’s spine can lead to pain in the lower back and back labor.

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Back injury or a sway back: Any back injury before pregnancy can make you have intense back pain during labor. Moreover, a sway back position, where your lower back curves inward, stressing the pelvis, can lead to back labor.
Back injury or a sway back

Image: Shutterstock

5. Back pain before pregnancy or during menstrual cycle

If you have had back pain during the menstrual cycle or gone through episodes of lower back pain before pregnancy, then there is an increased chance of back labor.

6. Bad posture

If you have a habit of standing with your knees locked and butt tucked, then it puts pressure on your back and can be a reason for back labor.

All the reasons mentioned above are long-term in the sense that they do not crop up suddenly during labor. The baby’s position is the only one that is not known in advance but is not totally unpredictable. Therefore, look for the signs of back labor and be prepared for it.

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Symptoms Of Back Labor

You will know that the pain you are getting is back labor (or are likely to have back labor), with the below symptoms:

[ Read: How To Speed Up Labor ]

  • Your labor begins, and you are mostly in a progressed stage
  • Slow progress in your labor
  • Your expected due date might get pushed ahead since your baby is in posterior position
  • The mother might not feel the contractions even after the water break due to the posterior position of the baby

As mentioned earlier, back labor involves intense pain and that itself is a major symptom. But there are ways to get some relief from the pain.

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How To Get Relief From Back Labor?

You can get relief from back labor by the combination of the below:

  • Techniques that change the fetal position.
  • Ways that provide some comfort.

5 techniques to change fetal position and get relief from back labor

Some exercises help improve the position of the baby and alleviate the pain from back labor, thus reducing labor difficulties.

[ Read: Breathing Techniques During Labor ]

techniques to change fetal position and get relief from back labor

Image: Shutterstock/iStock

  1. Squatting during the first and second stage of labor will help fetal rotation and facilitates opening up of the pelvic outlet.
    1. Sitting on a birth ball aids in swaying your pelvic region to facilitate the downward push.
  1. Pelvic tilts involve various hip movements such as rocking, swaying, and hula hooping that help move the baby towards the birth canal.
  1. Balance yourself on your hands and knees over a plain surface like a bed or floor. This posture improves the fetal movements so that your baby can get accurately positioned for birthing.
  1. Stand by resting one foot on a firm chair. As you lunge towards the chair, the area between the hips gets opened and you feel the stretch. This openness creates room for the baby to rotate.
  1. If the baby is angled abnormally, then an abdominal lift with the help of your partner or a midwife can assist in changing the position of the baby.
  1. Miles circuit is another technique to help improve the position of your baby (4):

Step 1: You need to place yourself in a cow position on all your fours and rest your head and chest on the floor for 30 minutes. This creates space for the baby to move.

Step 2: Now, sleep to your left in a bed, and bring your right leg up as much as possible to touch your head, while the left leg remains straight. Roll down so that the stomach touches the bed. Stay like that for 30 minutes as it helps the baby rotate to an optimal position.

Step 3: Follow up with curb walking or climbing the stairs sideways to open up the pelvis.

  1. There is another method called ECV (external cephalic version), which the doctor may suggest if the baby is breech. In this method, the doctor puts firm pressure on the abdomen to turn the fetus to the optimal birthing position. It is usually done between the 36 and 38 weeks of pregnancy. However, it would not be performed in the case of multiple babies, health concerns in the fetus or reproductive system abnormalities in the mother (5).

The above techniques are essentially suitable in the case of occiput posterior. In general, you can get relief from back labor through some simple measures.

Relief measures for back laborz

Here are some ways to get comfort from back labor:

[ Read: How To Induce Labor With Acupressure ]

  1. Hot/ cold compresses on your lower back.
  1. Hydrotherapy, including a hot water bath in the shower or sitting in a warm birth pool.
  1. An oil massage done by a trained practitioner or using a vibrator tool.
  1. Sterile water injections (SWI) injected at four places in your lower back. This interrupts the nerve signals for pain from reaching the brain. Around 0.01ml of sterile water is injected under the skin and its effect can last up to two hours. SWI (4):
  • Has an immediate effect
  • Does not make you unconscious
  • Does not affect the baby
  • Does not restrict your movements
  • Is a simple procedure that can be repeated if necessary
  1. Epidural works by numbing you from belly to bottom and thus provides relief from the pain.
  1. Putting rolling pressure on the lower back with the help of hard items such as a tennis ball or trim roller can help reduce the pain.
  1. Applying strong counter pressure on the back gives relief from back pain. There are two types of counter pressures:

i. Double hip squeeze is a counter pressure method wherein your partner can gently squeeze your hips in and pull gently out.

ii. For sacral pressure, your partner can place his palms on the sacrum (a bone between the two hip bones in pelvic region) and gently press inward. This aids in relieving pain.

Note: During labor, a supine position can make back labor more intense. Therefore, lie down in a side tilt position to feel comfortable.

Going through labor is in itself an ordeal, and back labor as an add-on makes the situation worse. However, through the right methods and techniques you can get some relief from the unbearable back pain.

Below we answer some commonly asked questions about back labor.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does back labor pose any danger to my baby?

Back labor is painful but doesn’t pose any risk to your baby during delivery. In some cases, babies in the posterior position can intensify back labor and make it more painful and longer, which calls for a C-section.

[ Read: Different Positions Of Baby During Birth ]

2. How is back pain different from back labor?

Back pain is caused due to the hormonal changes that cause the ligaments and joints in the pelvic area to loosen as a part of preparation for childbirth. However, back labor is an intense pain that is usually felt in the lower back during or between the contractions due to the pressure exerted by the baby’s head at your lower back.

Have you experienced back labor during pregnancy? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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shreeja pillai

Postgraduate in Chemistry and content writer. She has worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company and also holds a diploma in pharmaceutical regulatory affairs. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. She is a writer for MomJunction and aims at providing informative articles based on health and wellness. Apart from writing, she takes a great interest in music and traveling. know more about her at
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