Back Labor 101: Warnings & Pain Management

Preparing for labor is an ordeal in and of itself for every pregnant lady out there. There are birthing classes you ought to attend to, pilates balls to jump on, and books to read until the contractions start. What’s more, there’s a thing called back labor that’s bound to make the pregnancy take a wild turn.

Now, some people refuse to believe that back labor even exists. As it turns out, it is completely real and something that may cause some concern. Let’s see what it’s all about.

What Does Back Labor Actually Mean?

Contrary to what you might think, back labor doesn’t mean you’re giving birth on your back. It’s actually the discomfort and pain you feel in the lower part of your back.

The cause? Usually, instead of facing your back, the baby is facing your stomach.

This condition is relatively common, so much so that the occiput posterior fetal position happens to 25% of all pregnant women. However, it’s not yet clear why some women go through it while others don’t.

According to some research results, women with a BMI score of 29 or over are more prone to this condition. First-time mothers, as well as those who go past 40 weeks of pregnancy, might feel extreme pain due to back labor as well. On top of that, artificially ruptured membranes and induced labor are also risk factors you should be aware of.

But Why Does It Hurt So Much?

In essence, the baby’s head is to blame. Given that it’s down below where your cervix is, but the baby’s facing your stomach, there’s a lot of pressure on your spine and tailbone. The hardness of the head is what’s causing the pain, i.e., the baby is pressing on the nerves.

But, that’s not the only reason you might be experiencing back labor. If the baby is in that position but flips at one point, back labor is still an option. Your back is still sensitive from all the pressure, so the pain could be inevitable.

Additionally, you might experience harsh back labor, even when the baby is in the correct position. In the end — if you’re out of luck, you’re in pain.

Back Labor vs. Normal Contractions

The main difference between contractions and back labor is in consistency. Contractions come and go, often varying in intensity. Back labor, on the other hand, lingers and is mostly located in the lower part of your back.

The bad news is that these two in combination can make the mother incredibly uncomfortable.

Is Back Labor Dangerous?

In most cases, back labor won’t lead to any complications during labor. Still, if it happens that the baby is facing the stomach instead of your back, then labor might last a lot longer than usual. The little one will have a hard time going down the birth canal, which is bound to cause an incredible amount of pain.

If you’re having a vaginal delivery, you should consider pain meds. Additionally, know that if the baby cannot go through the birth canal itself, you might need a C-section or assisted vaginal delivery (either forceps or vacuum). There’s also a higher chance of perineal tearing and episiotomy.

How to Know if the Baby Is Facing Your Stomach

If the baby is in an unfavorable position, i.e., it’s facing your stomach, you will know it immediately if you just touch your belly. It should feel squishy, soft, and a bit flat as well because the baby’s back is not there to make the surface smooth and hard.

Preventing and Easing the Pain

Now, there isn’t a method that can guarantee you won’t experience back labor. Nevertheless, there are things you can do at home to help the baby out and get it in the right position.

For starters, exercise throughout the pregnancy to keep the baby moving too. Swimming is a good idea, and it should even help you keep those extra pounds away. However, if you’re feeling heavy and are really not up for it, then stick to pelvic tilts. Try to do them a couple of times a day for five minutes.

You can also switch up your sleeping position. Lie on your left side whenever you’re sleeping, napping, or just resting. That will reduce the pressure on your vena cava and encourage the little one to swim around. Additionally, whenever you have to sit, try to lean forward with your hips.

Finally, you can always talk the baby into moving around. For example, your partner can speak or sing to it near your lower abdomen so that the little one heads in that direction.

What If the Baby Doesn’t Turn?

If the baby is in the same (wrong) position after 36 weeks have passed, your healthcare provider may try to wait it out or turn it manually. This process is called an external cephalic version (ECV). The doctor will give you something to relax your uterus, apply pressure onto the belly with their hands, and push the baby into the right position.

What to Do to Ease the Pain

If, for some reason, the ECV doesn’t work, you can always ask for an epidural or a spinal block to ease the pain. Other options include baby-safe narcotics, as well as sterile water injections.

However, if you want to stay all natural, you can try a variety of things, for example:

  • Go into the cat-cow yoga pose to keep the pressure off your spine and tailbone
  • Use heat pads and/or cold compresses (alternate between these two)
  • Don’t stay in one position for too long. While you’re in bed, keep turning from time to time. Just don’t stay on your back, as that will only make the pain worse.
  • Apply firm pressure to the aching areas (ask your partner or the midwife to use their hands or a golf ball for this).

If these don’t work, it’s time to go old-school with some leaning over, squats, and crouches. Try each of these positions to see which one provides you with the most relief. In the end, you can also try taking a warm shower or having a warm bath if there’s a birthing tub you can use.

Leave a Comment