Ever heard of Back Labor?
Back Labor. The American Pregnancy Association refers to it blandly as, "the pain and discomfort that laboring women experience in their lower back."
Although women can experience sensations of pain and discomfort that vary widely, back labor is usually talked about in connection with the position of the baby. Some cramping or pressure is often felt at some point in labor. Back labor, however, is usually felt more consistently through labor, with contractions and without contractions.
What is back Labor? Why is it so bad? Why is there no break?
Back labor typically has some connection to how a baby is positioned. A woman has greater chances of experiencing back labor if the baby is OP, or occiput posterior. Posterior babies are sometimes called a "sunny side up baby," meaning the baby face is looking towards a woman's belly button.
The "ideal position" for a baby to be is head down and anterior - or the baby facing a woman's spine. Because the baby is flipped when posterior, the hard part of the baby's head - the back - is now close to the mother's back bone. Because of this close proximity, it is common for there to be pain, or back labor.
But if a baby is posterior, or even just not "ideal", there is an increased chance for pain, even if contractions are not yet started. Positioning is often the reason for pain.
Can back labor be prevented?
The short answer is no. It is not known beforehand if a woman will experience back labor. Even if a woman knows her baby is posterior, that does not mean she will feel back labor.
Just like every baby is different, every labor is different.
Some things that have been shown to help before labor begins to encourage "better" positioning are:
- sitting so a woman's knees are below her hips
- sitting on a large exercise ball, or a "birth ball"
- having chiropractic or massage therapy throughout pregnancy
What helps back labor pain?
"What do I do if this is me? What if I get back labor?!"
So what if you are the woman who get back labor? There is no guarantee that posterior babies mean back pain, or that anterior babies don't, so having skilled support and tools that encourage relaxation are things you can have some control over.
If you are in labor and experiencing back pain:
Positions to try
- get off your back. If you are required to be in bed for medical reasons, try lying on your side, or even on hands and knees. A modified hands and knees position is better than laying on ones back.
- walking, swaying movements
- squatting or lunging with one foot propped up just a bit from the floor
Other methods of relief
- use heat or cold on the areas of pain
- applying counter pressure
- hydrotherapy, such as laboring in a bathtub or shower
A challenging task for a laboring woman is relaxing, but having relaxed muscles and mind is a well known way to encourage labor to progress and ease pain. If you are concerned with back labor, having a support person that is able to aid with each contraction in the way that best suits you is priceless.
Often times, women who have babies that are posterior also have labors that are longer and/or have erratic contraction patterns. This can mean many of the techniques described above will need to be used. This also means your partner may start to feel exhausted far before you are ready to deliver.
If you are concerned about coping with back labor, using a labor doula can be a great help, not just for you, but for your partner. If you are having contractions every 2-3 minutes, and require forceful counter pressure for the length of every contraction, your partner really is doing labor with you.
Although you cannot tap out and have someone else have contractions for you, giving your partner the chance to take breaks and alternate with your labor doula means you will have fresh support for your entire labor.
Doulas are able to provide educational support, emotional support, and especially physical support. And you deserve to have support that is there when you need it.
Because labor can be a pain in your back!
Authored by A Swift Doula