Skip to Content

Back labor: Childbirth myth or reality?

Medically reviewed on February 20, 2018

"Back labor," a term used to describe intense lower back pain during and sometimes between labor contractions, does happen. It occurs when the baby's head puts pressure on your lower back.

To ease back pain during labor:

  • Try massage. Ask your partner or labor coach to rub your lower back. Counter pressure against your lower back with a closed fist or tennis ball might help. Having one or two people provide pressure against your hips during contractions while you lean forward onto something might help, too. This is known as the double hip squeeze.
  • Change positions. Straddle a chair and lean forward or kneel against a pile of pillows or a birthing ball. Take the pressure off your spine by getting on your hands and knees. To give your arms a break, lower your shoulders to the bed or a floor mat and place your head on a pillow. When you're lying down, lie on your side rather than on your back.
  • Consider medication. Epidural and spinal anesthesia can temporarily block pain in your lower body. Although not widely used, some research suggests that shallow injections of sterile water to the lower back can provide temporary — but potentially significant — relief from back pain during labor.
  • Hydrotherapy. Soaking in a tub or aiming the shower head at your lower back might provide relief.

Work with your health care team to evaluate your options for pain relief during labor. Whether you experience back labor or feel labor pain elsewhere, being familiar with pain management techniques can give you a greater sense of control.

© 1998-2018 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use

Hide