What is Back Labor

Most women confused back pain from back labor and vice versa. This is because the experience and sensation are very much similar to one another. With that being said, the differences of back pain from back labor are discussed below.


Back pain

Back pain (specifically on the lower part of the back) during pregnancy occurs due to the heavy weight that a woman carries upfront (the growing baby).

Back labor

Did you know that only about ¼ of women experience acute back pain and discomfort during contractions?

As the estimated due date draws near, the lower back pain indicates something else, this is called back labor. These labor contractions occur in the back instead of the usual abdomen or pelvis. Back labor is often accompanied by irregular contraction patterns

Pregnancy week by week

Most women experience slight cramping at some point during the course of labor, while some women feel back labor in between contractions.

Pregnancy – induced back pain versus back labor

To be able to know if a pregnant woman is experiencing pregnancy – induced back pain or back labor, below are the following indicators which separate one from the other:

  • Pregnancy – induced back pain is continuous while back labor come and goes in regular intervals (specifically 15 – 20 minute intervals)
  • Back pain occurs due to pregnancy – related symptoms like for instance, sleeping in the wrong position and sitting or standing in long periods; while back labor occurs out of the blue which indicates that the baby is ready to be born
  • Pregnancy – induced back pain can be relieved by massaging or by stretching the achy area while nothing can alleviate the pain of back labor, not until the labor and delivery process is done

To confirm that a pregnant woman is really experiencing back labor, she must ensure that the following signs are present before rushing into the hospital:

  • Consistent contractions, with an interval of 3 minutes and each lasts for a minute only
  • Contractions are close enough to the feeling that labor is about to begin

Risk factors of back labor

Experiencing back labor is entailed to various risk factors such as:

Post – term pregnancy

Post – term pregnancy is when an expectant mother has reached week 40.

Body max index (BMI) of 29 or higher

Expectant moms who have BMI of 29 or higher are likely to experience back labor.

First – time mothers

Women who are about to give birth for the very first – time have higher instances of experiencing back labor. This is because the female body is about to experience a sudden change and adjustment to let the baby pass through the birth canal.

Contributing factors of back labor

Fetal occiput posterior position

Fetal occiput posterior position (also called the sunny side up) is when the unborn baby’s head burrows deep down the pelvis, faces the abdomen, and against the mother’s back. This type of incorrect fetal position and presentation is classified as follows:

  • Persistent fetal occiput posterior
  • Right occiput transverse
  • Right occiput posterior
  • Left occiput posterior

However, some research suggests that this type of incorrect fetal position and presentation does not always result to back labor.

Back pain during the course of a menstrual period

Researches show that women who experience back pain whenever she have her menstrual period are likely to experience back labor regardless of the fetus’ position and presentation.

Overdue pregnancy

Overdue pregnancy (widely known as late pregnancy) contributes to back labor due to the prolonged carriage of the unborn baby.

No labor contractions after water breakage

No labor contractions after water breakage indicate that the cervix slowly dilates because it is swelling.

Irregular labor contraction pattern

Irregular labor contraction pattern indicates an occiput posterior position and contributes to back labor.

Treatment and relieving options for back labor and back pain

Although back labor and back pain is not considered a disease, this type of pain has a lot of treatment and relieving options. Below are the following which corresponds to the different factors which contributes to back labor and back pain:

For the abnormal position and presentation of the fetus

Unfortunately, the fetal position changes and an incorrect presentation cannot be avoided. Because of that, enlisted below are the following techniques and to do’s to reposition the unborn:

  • Regular ultrasound sessions to know the baby’s current position as the pregnancy progresses
  • Brisk walking
  • Squat exercises
  • Lunge exercise (with or without dumbbells)
  • Use or sit on a birth ball
  • Take a swim – swimming is considered as the most soothing exercise during pregnancy. Take a swim in a tummy down position or breaststroke technique at a moderate pace for at least half an hour per day
  • Rebozo sifting – rebozo is a traditional garment (preferably shawl) which is worn by Mexican women in various ways. Wearing a rebozo has a lot of functions which include pregnancy and labor like sifting. Rebozo sifting involves a doula or midwife wrapping the garment around a pregnant woman’s belly. This type of technique eases round ligament pain while helping the baby reposition himself
  • Pelvic tilting (also called as Kegel exercises) – Pelvic tilt is an exercise which comprise of very subtle contractions of the pelvic floor muscles (which supports the uterus, rectum, urethra, and bladder) and spinal cord. It strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, improves circulation to the rectal and vaginal area, and eases the pressure on the spine
  • Hula Hoop dancing – Hula hoop dancing is said to be the great way to stay fit during gestation and ease the back pain
  • Sit backwards – sit on a toilet seat, bidet, or any type of chair backwards
  • Talk or sing to the unborn baby – Did you know that the parents’ voices have the ability to urge the unborn baby to reposition himself? When the mother or the father talks or sings to their unborn in the lower part of the abdomen, he will likely move to the direction of the voice or music. This then increases the possibility that he might put himself in the right position

Fortunately, most unborn babies flip in the proper position and presentation as the estimated due date approaches.

To minimize the discomfort of back labor and back pain

  • Microwavable heating pad– Place the microwavable heating pad whenever the back aches to ease the pain
  • Homemade heating pad (heated rice sock) – the cheaper alternative of the aforementioned heating therapy
  • Cold compression therapy – Put a cold compress or ice pack on the back to soothe the pain
  • Hydrotherapy (widely called as water or pool therapy) – a type of technique which involves special exercises performed in a warm shower, bathtub, or birth pool. Hydrotherapy is specifically designed to relieve chronic lower back since heat eases the pain and comforts the body
  • Sterile water injection – this type of treatment involves 4 intracutaneous injections (trigger points) of sterile water over the sacrum’s (tailbone) skin surface (triangular bone at the inferior end of the spine)
  • Spinal block (can either be narcotics / anesthetic, epidural or combined epidural) – spinal block narcotics or anesthetic is injected once over the sacrum (tailbone), while an epidural or combined spinal epidural (CSE) is a regional anesthetic procedure which is a combination of spinal and epidural anesthesia and numbness
  • Wooden roller relief stress massager – apply pressure on the back by using a wooden roller massager to alleviate the pain (other cheaper alternatives include plastic water bottles, beverage cans, wooden rolling pins)
  • Ask the doula for a back rub and massage amid or during the course of contractions (or both, whatever soothes a pregnant woman’s mood)
  • Chiropractic treatment – chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine which treats various musculoskeletal system
  • Counter pressure – counter pressure is a comfort technique which pressures the bony areas of the body
  • Backbone alignment – to align the backbone properly, tuck the tailbone in towards the belly button for about 30 seconds

During the course of labor

  • Always lay or sleep on the left side of the body or in a tilt position. Never lie down using the back as it causes more pain
  • Gravity – friendly positions – during early labor, always make it a point to perform gravity – friendly positions such as swaying, leaning, semi – Fowler’s position
  • Wait – and – see approach (also called as wait – and –see doctrine) if an expectant mother reached the 36th week of pregnancy and the unborn is still positioned incorrectly, the midwife or ob – gyne may take the wait – and – see doctrine. This type of approach is used since some babies reposition themselves correctly right after labor and delivery begins
  • External cephalic version (ECV) – Did you know that 50% of pregnant women who underwent external cephalic version are successful? ECV is a process by which an improperly positioned unborn baby is externally rotated in the proper (head – down position) position. This process is done with the guide of an ultrasound scan and tocolytic injection (medicine which relaxes the uterus). It is usually performed after the 37th week of pregnancy

Back labor and back pain FAQs (frequently asked questions)

Is there a way to prevent back labor?

Back labor can be prevented. However in some cases, women who have a history of back labor are likely to experience it again in the future despite of taking or applying the preventive measures.

Can back labor increase the risk of pregnancy complications?

Back labor pain is harmless on both the mother and the baby. However, research suggests that the incorrect fetal positioning will likely increase the difficulty in pushing the baby through the birth canal which may lead to complications such as:

  • Required follow – up to take pain medication such as local anesthesia (if the patient have not receive or been injected by one yet)
  • Prolonged and/or arrested labor
  • Forceps in childbirth – forceps is a surgical instrument which resembles a pair of tongs. Forceps in childbirth refers to the vaginal assisted delivery which uses forceps to guide the baby’s way out of the birth canal
  • Perineal tearing – the perineum which refers to the area between the labia minora and the rectal wall, has the potential to tear apart during the course of labor
  • Need to undergo periniotomy (also called as episiotomy) – periniotomy is the surgical incision in the perineum
  • Caesarian delivery (also called as c – section)