If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it’s time to watch your back.

Sabina Weaver, a physical therapist with His Therapy, invests much of her time helping women with pelvic floor or back problems. She said prenatal and postnatal back pain is common, but women can take steps to lessen its effects.

“If you know you are going to try to get pregnant, start a routine exercise program,” Weaver said. “When you are pregnant, continue exercise. To continue some type of activity helps with everything — hormonal changes, postural changes. You don’t want to consider hard, hard exercise.”

Always ask your health-care provider about continuing an exercise program during pregnancy, but Weaver said most routine exercise will be allowed. More intense activities, like snow skiing, will have to wait until after baby.

From conception through birth, Weaver said a women’s body produce a hormone called relaxin.

“With the production of relaxin, joints become more loose, muscles become more stretched,” she said. “Particularly our back and pelvic muscles become more lax. Your body is trying to get that fetus in position.”

That’s good for baby and for birth, but may lead to back pain.

“Your posture changes,” Weaver said. “You need to be aware of it.”

Pregnant women, especially those who are overweight, may need a back brace.

“There are maternity support braces that will help with back pain,” Weaver said. “As a physical therapist, I love fitting my patients with that. They really need to be fitted to make sure they are getting the right size and they aren’t’ making their posture worse.”

The pelvic floor is also affected by the changes that occur during pregnancy. Weaver said Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor can help, as well as drinking lots of water. She said the pelvic floor and the muscles of the core are important to a healthy back.

Poor body mechanics can affect anyone, but become increasingly important for expectant moms.

“One of the things we see with pregnancy is a lot of slouching,” Weaver said. “If using a computer, the forward head and rounded shoulders gets worse with pregnancy. All of that can affect back pain.”

After baby, Weaver said mothers often put their own health on the back burner as new responsibilities take precedence.

“I know it’s busy, but you still need exercise,” she said. “A lot of women want to go back to what they were doing before, but their body has to adapt.”

Patience becomes an absolute necessity. Weaver laments the short postpartum recovery time that most women have in the United States, saying that it can take a year to truly recuperate.

“Six weeks is nothing for our bodies to recover,” she said.

Exercise, healthy eating and self-care are all critical in the postpartum period, and they can help the back recover as well. Weaver said a variety of techniques, including massage, water exercises and dry needling techniques can be useful in that recovery.

“If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your family,” she said. “Our ultimate goal is happy mommy and happy baby, and healthy mommy and healthy baby. We want those two components: to be healthy and happy.”

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