Why You Might Experience Back Pain During Labor

The possible causes and how to manage the pain

Young woman enduring labor pains in hospital.
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When we talk about pain during labor, most women believe the majority of the pain they experience will be in their uterus. But back pain can also be common. In fact, lingering back pain after contractions are gone has been said to occur in up to 25 percent of all labors and births.

What Is the Cause of Labor-Related Back Pain?

The most frequently assumed cause of this extended back pain is the baby's position in relation to the mother's pelvis. The ​occiput posterior position (OP) in particular is often pinpointed as the most likely culprit. In the OP position, the baby is facing up toward the mother's pubic bone, causing the harder part of the baby's skull to rest on the bony part of mom's spine.

The position of the mother during labor can also affect whether or not she experiences back pain.

How Can You Manage Back Pain?

Counter Pressure

Have someone push at or just above the sacrum, where you're feeling the most pain. It can also help to use an object like a warm pad or a cold pack.

Hands and Knees

This labor position is relatively easy to do and is great for pain relief. When you're on your hands and knees, the baby is tipped slightly out of the pelvis, giving it more room to rotate. And due to the decreased pressure on the cervix, you might not experience as much pain during contractions. This position also allows for great counter pressure for the lower back.

Pelvic Tilts

These can be used prior to or during labor if you know your baby is in the OP position. It's easiest to do on all fours and involves isolated movements of the pelvis, tucking your bottom in and then returning it to its original state.


Immersing yourself in a tub can also be a great comfort during labor. Or you can assume the hands and knees position in the shower. You can place towels on the floor of the shower to make it more comfortable, or lean over a birth ball.

Other Tools

In addition to the birth ball, you can use a rolling pin to help with counter pressure. They even have hollow rolling pins that can be filled with hot or cold fluids. A rice sock, for moist heat, is also beneficial in dealing with back pain.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) has been shown to be an effective way to deal with back pain during labor. This non-medicinal form of pain relief should be started early in labor for the best effects. Small electrical pulses help disrupt the sensation of pain.

There are other positions and techniques, like the double hip squeeze, that are beneficial in labor.

Medications also have their time and place. However, some studies indicate that using an epidural prior to the baby rotating may prevent rotation and lead to an increase in cesareans.

Further Reading

Pregnancy and Back Pain: Why is it that so many pregnant women complain of back pain? And, more importantly, what can you do about it?

10 Ways To Comfort a Woman Giving Birth: During labor, many of us can feel helpless when it comes to comforting the laboring woman. Knowing the right things to do and say is always helpful, as well as knowing a few tips on what not to do.