- Left Side Pain Symptoms
- Causes of Left Side Pain
- When to See the Doctor
- Diagnosis of Left Side Pain
- Treatments for Left Side Pain
- Causes of Back Pain
- Back Pain Symptoms
- Diagnosis of Back Pain
- Treatments for Back Pain
Left-side pregnancy pain
Many women experience left side pain during pregnancy. Early in your pregnancy, it can be a sign that your body is stretching to make room for your baby, or it can stem from digestive issues such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or constipation.
Later in your pregnancy, it can be caused by the ligaments in your abdomen stretching. It can also be a sign of symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) or pelvic girdle pain (PGP), which is a condition that occurs when the ligaments supporting the pelvic bones relax due to a pregnancy hormone called relaxin.
Urinary tract infections (UTI) or kidney infections can cause pain in your left side at any point during your pregnancy. Pregnant women are more likely to develop urinary tract infections due to hormonal and structural changes during pregnancy.
Signs and symptoms of left side pain during pregnancy
Different types of left side pain that can be present in pregnancy include:
- Cramping pain similar to menstrual cramps
- Pressure in your pelvic area
- Cramping in the left side of the lower abdomen
- Pain in your pubic area
- Pain in your lower back
- Pain that goes down your thighs
- Clicking sensation in your pelvis
- Pain with urination
Causes of left side pain during pregnancy
Left side pain in the first trimester is usually caused by normal bodily changes from pregnancy. It may also be related to digestive issues that tend to be worse during pregnancy, such as GERD. Left side pain in early pregnancy may also be caused by miscarriage. The most serious cause of left side pain in early pregnancy is an ectopic pregnancy, which needs emergency treatment. UTIs and kidney infections can cause left side pain at any point during pregnancy.
Round ligament pain is the most common cause of pain on either side during the second trimester. The round ligaments support the uterus. They stretch during pregnancy to accommodate your growing baby. This is a sharp pain that’s felt in the abdomen or in the hip area, on either side. Any sudden movement that makes these ligaments retract quickly can cause pain. It only lasts for a few seconds and generally gets better in the third trimester.
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP), sometimes called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), can occur at any stage in pregnancy but is more common late in pregnancy. The pain may occur in your pubic bone, at approximately the level of your hips, on either side of your lower back, or in the perineum, which is the area between your vagina and anus. It may spread to your thighs as well. You may also have a grinding or clicking feeling in your pubic area. PGP is not harmful to your baby, but it can be very uncomfortable for you.
When to see the doctor for left side pain during pregnancy
If you have any of the following symptoms accompanying your left side pain, you should call your doctor:
Diagnosing left side pain during pregnancy
Your doctor will take a medical history, listen to your symptoms, and do a physical exam. If necessary, your doctor may order an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the exact cause of your left side pain. They may also order blood or urine tests to check for other issues, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Treatments for left side pain during pregnancy
Treatment for your left side pain will depend on the cause. It may include a combination of home treatments, medication, or therapy.
Normal changes of pregnancy
For left side pain that is related to normal pregnancy changes, the following may be helpful:
- Don’t do any heavy lifting
- Try sleeping with a pillow between your knees
- Move more slowly but more often
- Use a heating pad, but never for more than 10 minutes at a time
- Rest more often
- Do Kegel exercises
- Use a maternity belt for extra support
Round ligament pain
If your left side pain is caused by round ligament pain, try some of these options:
- Get extra rest
- Move and change positions slowly
- If you know you need to cough or sneeze, bend and flex your hips
- For persistent pain, your doctor may recommend stretching exercises
Pelvic girdle pain
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) can range from mild to severe. You can try the following options for relief:
- Avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting
- Try a heating pad or ice pack on painful areas, but don’t use a heating pad for more than 10 minutes at a time
- Wear a pelvic support belt
- Do kegel exercises
- Sleep with a pillow between your legs
- Talk to your doctor about pain relievers if the pain is severe
- Talk to your doctor about physical therapy if home measures aren’t helping
Urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney infection
- Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics
- You may be treated preventatively with antibiotics for recurrent UTIs
- Kidney infections may require hospitalization for intravenous (IV) antibiotics
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What causes back pain in pregnancy?
Back pain is usually reported by about 22 weeks into the pregnancy, although some women experience it earlier.
During pregnancy, the pain usually occurs in the lumbar region or low back, but it may radiate into the posterior thighs and buttocks for some women. The intensity and duration of low back pain varies, but one study found that about one-third of pregnant women felt low back pain was a significant problem.
Fortunately, back pain typically goes away soon after giving birth. Most women don’t experience ongoing issues. That said, there can be other reasons and causes for back pain during pregnancy that require attention from a doctor. Recognizing the common signs and symptoms of back pain in pregnancy can help you determine whether a less common cause, like an infection, may be contributing to your low back pain.
Signs and symptoms of back pain in pregnancy
For some women, low back pain may be one of the first signs that they’re pregnant. Other women may not experience this pain until later in their pregnancy. While each woman will experience a different level of pain, the most common signs and symptoms of back pain in pregnancy include:
Causes of back pain in pregnancy
Women’s bodies undergo multiple changes throughout their pregnancy. Several of these changes can contribute to low back pain at different times.
Women who’ve experienced back pain in a previous pregnancy are likely to have back pain in future pregnancies as well. Women with chronic back pain or who have a less active lifestyle before becoming pregnant are also at increased risk of low back pain.
Other common causes of back pain during pregnancy include:
Progesterone levels slowly rise from the 9th week until the 32nd week of pregnancy. This hormone relaxes the muscles and ligaments near your pelvis. Another hormone called relaxin, which is produced by the ovary and placenta during pregnancy, also impacts the joints and ligaments in your pelvis to make them more flexible for childbirth. These changes can contribute to low back pain.
Changes in the abdominal muscles
Your abdominal muscles help stabilize your spine and support your back. Pregnancy can cause these muscles to stretch and sometimes separate, called diastasis recti, due to the pressure that the growing fetus places on the abdominal muscles. The muscles become weaker as they stretch or separate, which puts the woman at increased risk of low back pain.
The changes in your uterus and the growing baby can change your body’s center of gravity. As a result, most women change their posture. Often, pregnant women lean backward, which can put extra strain on the back muscles, causing muscle stiffness and low back pain.
When to see a doctor for back pain in pregnancy
Discuss any low or moderate back pain at your regular doctor appointments. If you’re experiencing severe or unusual back pain, or pain that lasts for more than two weeks, you should call your doctor’s office immediately.
Severe or unusual back pain can be a sign of preterm labor or a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs can be serious, especially when pregnant, and need to be treated by your doctor. Signs of a UTI can include:
Diagnosing back pain in pregnancy
Diagnosis of back pain in pregnancy is primarily based on reported symptoms. Your doctor will take a detailed history of your symptoms and then perform a physical exam to assess how well your spinal muscles, joints, and nerves are functioning. Imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT scans, are typically avoided when possible.
Treatments for back pain in pregnancy
Most women will experience some back pain in pregnancy. Fortunately, there are effective methods that can help prevent and manage the pain. Some common treatments include:
Maintain a good posture
Since your center of gravity will change as your baby grows, you’ll need to pay more attention to your posture and how you’re standing. While leaning backward is common, it can strain your back muscles. Instead, try standing and sitting up straight, using a comfortable wide stance when standing, and keeping your shoulders back and relaxed.
Wear supportive gear
To help manage low back pain, try to wear supportive, low-heeled shoes with arch support. You may want to avoid high-heeled shoes since these can cause additional changes to your center of gravity.
Some women wear a maternity support belt, but there’s limited research on its effectiveness. Talk to your doctor to see if a maternity support belt may be a good choice for you.
Sleep on your side
Try sleeping on your side, with one or both knees bent. You may also want to place a pillow behind your back for additional support.
Incorporate gentle physical activity
Talk with your medical provider about what kind of physical activity is right for you and your developing baby. If approved by your doctor, gentle regular physical activity can help you keep your back strong and prevent or minimize low back pain.
Use heat or cold packs
A hot or cold pack may help ease the pain and relax your muscles.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Insights Into Imaging: "Imaging for Acute Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy."
Merck Manual: "Pelvic Pain During Early Pregnancy."
Office of Research on Women's Health: "Pregnancy Complications."
Pelvic Obstetric & Gynaecological Physiotherapy: "Pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain."
StatPearls: "Urinary Tract Infections in Pregnancy."
Urology Health: "What is Kidney (Renal) Infection - Pyelonephritis?"
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy."
Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine: "Pregnancy and low back pain."
Journal of Physical Therapy Science: "Impact of pregnancy on back pain and body posture in women."
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health: "Previous physical activity decreases the risk of low back pain and pelvic pain during pregnancy."
Spine: "Low back pain and pelvic pain during pregnancy: prevalence and risk factors."
Spine: "Low back pain in pregnancy."
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Spine: "Previous back pain and risk of developing back pain in a future pregnancy."
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