Back Labor Pain – What is it, How to Prevent and Tips to Relieve

6 min read

Written by Gunjan Bedi

Gunjan Bedi

Back labor - Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

Back pain is very common due to intense contractions. But in some extraordinary events, intense contractions can lead to back labor. It generally occurs when the baby’s head is stuck in the pelvic region against the tailbone and spine. The back labor condition may be challenging for pregnant women because they are already experiencing excruciating pain.

Although this sounds frightening, knowing each aspect of back labor helps manage the conditions easily. This article explains back labor causes, symptoms, and prevention. Let’s take a deep dive to gain insight.

In This Article

What is Back Labor?

Back labor refers to discomfort and pain in the lower back that occurs during labor. The excruciating and intense pain in the lower back during contraction makes labor more painful. This is fairly common during delivery. According to PubMed, approximately 33% of women experience back labor during pregnancy.

Back labor may feel like-

  • Intense and acute pain in the lower back region.
  • Extreme uneasiness due to painful spasms in the back.
  • Sharp and severe pain during contractions. This is different from regular labor pain, as it gets worse with each contraction and does not ease up between contractions.
  • Consistent pressure on the lower back and pelvic region.

[Read : What Are Early Labor Contractions?]

What Causes Back Labor Pains?

What Causes Back Labor Pains_

Back pain generally occurs when a baby changes its position inside. What happens is, the baby’s head gets fixed in the cervix, but it’s facing your stomach instead of facing toward your back. This condition is called as-occiput posterior position in medical terminology. The term may sound complicated but this condition usually resolves on its own by the time of delivery. 

When the baby is facing your stomach side, its head, which is fixed inside the cervix, puts pressure on the spine and the tailbone. This causes pain as the nerves in the region get pressed. Several factors can cause back labor in women, which are as follows-

1. Pelvic Shape

Variations in the shape and size of the pelvis can result in back labor. This usually happens if the baby is not in the occiput anterior position. 

2. Mom-to-Baby Size Ratio

Women having short torsos and carrying long babies might experience pain in the lower back during delivery. Back labor to such women occurs due to limited space for the babies to rotate within the pelvic region.

3. Bad Body Posture

Bad posture may tip the pelvis forward, and tucking the butt can result in back labor.

4. Ligament and Muscle Issues

Ligaments and muscles attached to the pelvis play a significant role in easy position changing and baby delivery. If the muscles and ligaments are tight or weak, this can result in back labor and pain during delivery.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Back Labor?

How to know if I have back labor? This is the common question pregnant women ask the most. Here are some signs and symptoms of back labor that indicate you have back labor-

  • Constant pain in the lower back
  • Pain that increases between contractions 
  • Back spasms or back contractions
  • Pain that becomes intense during contractions

Back Labor vs. Back Pain – How Can You Tell the Difference?

Back Labor Vs. Back Pain_ How Can You Tell The Difference_

Many women often confuse between back pain and back labor. They think both are similar, which is not true. Here are some differences that help distinguish between back pain and labor-

  • Back labor generally happens when a woman experiences active labor pain. If the pain starts in the back muscles and puts strain on them, this is back pain. Pregnancy hormones and weak abdominal muscles can also result in back pain. However, back labor occurs due to the baby’s head pressing against the pelvic floor.
  • Regular back pain due to regular contractions may come and go. The contraction is not as intense or excruciating as women experience during back labor. The pain also gives some time to relax between contractions. However, back labor doesn’t give one time to rest. The contractions are wild, and the pain is intense in the lower back. This increases with contractions.
  • Back labor often flows and ebbs with contractions. But back pain remains constant. Also, the pain peaks as your contractions increase. 

Are There Any Risk Factors For Back Labor?

Back labor risk may vary from woman to woman. Some researchers suggest that a woman might be at greater risk for back labor if-

  • She has a heart-shaped pelvis instead of the round-shaped pelvis. This may keep the baby stable from rolling in a backward-facing position. 
  • Is giving birth for the first time.
  • Women having shorter heights are at greater risk.
  • Overweight women are also at risk.

How Can You Prevent Back Labor Pain?

If the baby’s position is such that it’s facing the stomach side as the delivery day approaches, there’s no way to prevent back labor. But some may suggest a few tricks to prevent back labor, like-

1. Use Warm and Cold Towels

Sometimes midwives suggest placing a warm and cold towel on the back. This may not be a proven method, but it might help relieve back pain.

2. Try Pelvic Rocks

Roll down on the knees and hands. Rock the pelvic region back and forth. Practice arching the back to get some relief. There is no specific evidence to show that one will not get back labor, but stretching can help to relieve pelvic pain.

Remember that most babies turn to the correct position during the last phase of delivery. So, do not stress about back labor before the labor begins.

Top 5 Tips to Relieve Back Labor Pain

Tips to Relieve Back Labor Pain

If your baby doesn’t achieve the right position or is still in a stomach-facing position when reaching labor, here are some tips you can use to relieve back labor pain-

1. Move Around

If you are experiencing back pain, start walking, crouching, squatting, and leaning forward to reduce the labor pain. You can select any method that helps to reduce pain.

[Read : Can Squats Help To Induce Labor?]

2. Relieve Pressure

Get down on your knees and hands, ensure your shoulder and head are on a pillow on the ground or kneel against the birthing balls. The position is helpful to keep the baby’s head off the spine.

3. Apply Gentle Pressure

Apply firm pressure with the help of knuckles and golf balls on the lower back. This helps reduce irritation and pain. You can apply pressure on most painting areas.

4. Consider an Epidural

There’s no need to put off getting an epidural simply because you’re in back labor, especially if you’re in excessive pain. Talk to the anesthesiologist about your circumstances since you could require a greater medication dosage than usual for pain relief.

[Read : What Is An Epidural?]

5. Lie Down in Spider Position

Experts recommend lying on one side of the back during labor pain can help to get relief. However, keep the bottom leg extended and the top leg bent towards the belly. Support your back with a pillow.

Back labor is very painful and may be caused due to the position of the baby’s head against the tailbone and spine. You can try numerous techniques if the baby’s position is not favorable before delivery. You can try the above practices to reduce discomfort due to back labor. But do not take stress about the baby’s position; they change position throughout pregnancy and during labor. In addition to the above practices, take guidance from healthcare experts timely. 


1. What Does Back Labor Feel Like?

Back labor is very strong and wild, and you experience extreme pressure in your lower back. The pain gets worse when your labor progresses. You may experience continuous back pain that may hit between contractions. 

2. Back Labor vs. Regular Labor – What is the Difference?

One may experience more pain during back labor than in regular labor. Because the baby’s head puts pressure on the spine and nerves, back labor pain becomes excruciating and unbearable and may require medication like an epidural for delivery. Also, back labor delivery may take more time due to the baby’s position. In regular or normal labor, the pain is more but not as intense as in back labor. Regular delivery may take less time as the baby’s position is ok. The pain between contractions also relaxes a bit in regular labor.

3. Is Back Labor More Harmful Than Regular Labor?

Back labor is extremely uncomfortable, but it isn’t more harmful than regular labor. Most babies turn their position down (back of body again, front of belly, and back of body) during labor. 

Read Also: Getting Your Baby Into A Good Position For Birth

Gunjan Bedi,B.Sc (Biotechnology), M.Sc (Microbiology)

Gunjan Bedi an inspirational writer and story teller. My background in medical science make me a perfect content writer in parenting and medical content writing niche. My content has touched millions of readers within three years. Since past three years I have worked with several clients in different niche and provide easy to read content that readers love the most.Read more.

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