What Is Back Labor & How To Relieve Back Labor Pains

pregnant woman holding onto belly and back

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What is back labor? Moms that have experienced it will likely tell you it is one of the most painful things they’ve ever felt.

Back labor can happen to the best of us and it’s no joke. Any mama who has experienced this knows that it can be a painful process to endure. However, there are certain things you can try out in order to prevent back labor and ease the pain.

Here’s what you need to know about back labor in order to be better prepared:

What is back labor?

Based on its name, back labor relates to labor involving intense pain in the lower back during active labor. You may also feel this pain between contractions.

Some get confused between back labor vs. back pain but one thing to remember is that you have to actually be in labor in order to be experiencing back labor. If you have back pains but you’re not in labor, try visiting a chiropractor for some pain relief (as always check with your doctor first!).

When dealing with back labor, it is important to remember that apart from feeling pain, nothing is wrong with you and a lot of women still have natural births even with back labor.

What does back labor feel like?

How does back labor feel? Most women describe back labor pains as something sharp, sudden and intense, unlike regular contractions that ease in and out. This is what makes back labor more painful.

It may start in the belly/front area then you can feel the pain slowly spread to the back. This continues until you would no longer feel pain in the front area, rather all the intensity would be felt at the back. As your contractions get stronger and labor progresses, this pain becomes more intense.

What causes back labor?

There are a few reasons why back labor happens. Here are some causes:

Baby’s position

If a baby is lying face up or “sunny side up” (occiput posterior), their head would be putting pressure on mom’s spine, which can lead to back labor. The ideal position for a baby is head down, chin tucked and facing moms back. This position is called occiput anterior.

Mother’s short torso

If your baby is long but you have a short torso or waist, the baby might not be able to turn properly so it can contribute to your lower back pain.

Bad posture

Refrain from locking your knees and tipping your pelvis forward while standing up since this is bad for your back and can make you more prone to back labor.  

Tight muscles and ligaments

If your muscles are tight, your baby might find it hard to get into position in your pelvis.

Back injuries

Having a back injury can increase the risk of back labor.

Pelvic shape

There are some pelvic shapes that can handle a posterior baby more than others.

BMI above 29

If you have a body mass index of 29 or more, it could increase the chances of your baby being occiput posterior, leading to back labor.

You are overdue

If you have been pregnant for more than 40 weeks, you could be at risk for back labor.

First-time mom

Mamas giving birth for the first time could also be more likely to have a “sunny side up” baby, leading to back labor.


Back labor could also result out of induced labor or if the water has been broken artificially.

Related: 13 Natural Ways To Induce Labor – What Actually Works!

Back Labor Symptoms

  • Back labor will usually move and rise with your contractions.  
  • Back labor usually happens during active labor but it is also possible to have it during early labor.
  • Because of the posterior position of the baby, traveling through the birth canal could take longer and the effect would be that mom would go through a longer labor process and a longer pushing stage.  
  • If you are having back labor, you could be having contractions later on in the labor process and not immediately after your water breaks.
  • Back pains during menstruation can also be a sign that you might experience back labor while delivering the baby.
  • During back labor, you can also notice irregular contraction patterns.

How To Prevent Back Labor

Here are some precautions and preventive measures that you can try out to avoid back labor:

  • Maintain a good posture when standing up.
  • Do some daily baby positioning exercises.
  • Try acupuncture or go to a chiropractor.
  • Webster technique – this process done by a chiropractor can help reduce stress on the nervous system and also helps improve pelvic and ligament function. This technique helps get your baby into the best possible position for birth.
  • Belly mapping is something that you can do in order to help you find out how your child is positioned in your belly so that you can try to reposition the baby.
  • Think positive thoughts by listening to birth affirmations. It’s always beneficial to go into something difficult with a positive mindset!

You can help your baby turn into an occiput anterior position by doing the following:

  • Sit upright on a chair with a hardback instead of hunching over or lounging on a sofa.
  • Lean over a birth ball.
  • Lay on one side of the bed.
  • When driving, sit on a cushion in order to keep your hips from tilting back.
  • Try to use sound and play soft music or have your partner talk to the baby near the lower abdomen and hopefully the sound will catch the baby’s attention and lead him/her to the right direction.
  • Do some walking.  
  • Do some lunges and squats.
  • Sit on a birth ball.

Related: What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

How To Ease Back Labor Pains

Labor pains in the back can be relieved in different ways. For example, how mom is positioned during labor can help in getting her baby from a posterior position into an anterior one. In turn, this will help ease the back labor pains.

Here are some tips for back labor relief:

A balanced and open pelvis

This is important so that the baby will be in the optimal position during delivery. You can achieve this by:

  • Standing, sitting, and basically letting gravity do its work.
  • Getting on your hands and knees.
  • Walking with shoulders back and pelvis tucked.
  • When sitting down, keep your hips higher than your knees like when you are sitting on a yoga pillow.
  • Getting in a squat position with your back flat on the wall and also your feet flat on the floor.
  • Sitting on a birth ball with your legs wide.
  • Doing pelvic tilts
  • Belly dancing
  • Kneeling while leaning forward on the bed, chair or side of a birth tub.

Hot Towel

Put a hot towel or water bottle on your lower back. This heat can provide some comfort for your back pains. 

Hot Pack

Heat a microwave-safe gel pack that you can also use on your back. If it’s too hot, use a pillowcase or a towel in order to prevent from burning your skin.

Use ice packs

Like the heated gel packs, you can also use a frozen gel pack to use the cold to help soothe your back. You can also try a combination of both hot and cold gel packs.

Hip counter-pressure

Have someone or your partner gently squeeze your hips and pull a bit away from you.  

Strong back counter-pressure

This involves your partner placing their palm on the flat bone (sacrum) directly above your butt crack and applying pressure. You can communicate with your partner with single words like “more”, “less”, or “stop” depending on how it’s helping you or how it’s making you feel.

Rebozo sifting

This involves using a long piece of fabric to be placed under the belly to jiggle the pelvis and release tension.

Rebozo hanging

Pull/grab a hanging rebozo and this will help your knees to soften.  

Hands & knees

Get on your hands and knees (on all fours) during labor since it can take the pressure off the back and also help the baby move into a better position. This is because the baby gets slightly tipped out of the pelvis and can help move and rotate them.

Using a tub

Fill the tub with water that’s body temperature and you can also have someone pour hot water just on your back. The tub is also good for mom to be on her hands and knees since the water helps hold her up.  

Related: What Is A Postpartum Sitz Bath & Why You Need One

Take a shower

Aim the hot shower water on your lower back for relief.

Lift your belly

Do the abdominal lift and tuck wherein you stand up, bend your knees a bit, and gently lift the belly up with both hands. You then rock the pelvis forward keeping the lower back flat. After the contraction leaves, you can gently let go of your belly and pelvis. Try doing this for 10 contractions. These pelvic tilts help relieve pressure off your spine.


This is a common way of easing labor pains but it also comes with some risks. You can use a peanut ball when having an epidural since it can help open up the pelvis and can help the baby rotate.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)

TENS machines have short and low electrical pulses that can interrupt the pain signals being sent to your brain and in effect, it will help you cope with the pain better. This machine is best used during the early stages of labor.

Exaggerated Sims

This position can help turn and rotate the baby into an anterior position. Take note you may have to be in this position for a while before the baby turns

Here’s what to do:

  • Get on the bed
  • Lay down on your left side and place pillows around. Bring your top leg as high on the pillows as possible while keeping the bottom leg straight. Try to relax if you can. You can also alternate to the right side if you will be doing this again later on during the day.

Miles Circuit

This procedure involves three steps and is actually beneficial since it prepares you for the exaggerated sims position mentioned above while also making the most out of when your baby has rotated. Keep in mind you will be doing this circuit for a long time so be prepared beforehand.

1. The open knee chest position – Do this first for about 30 minutes. Lower your chest on the floor or the bed and keep your bottom as high as possible. Make sure your knees are wide apart. There should be more than a 90-degree angle between your torso and thighs.

You can use pillows to prop yourself up and try to find a comfy position. You can also use a rebozo under the belly with someone holding it from behind in order to help you maintain this position for a long time. Doing this can help create space for the baby to move out of the pelvis, rotate, and change position.

2. Do the exaggerated sims position (exaggerated side-lying position) as referred to above.

3. Move around – do some lunges or walk up the stairs facing sideways. You can also take a walk outside and place one foot on the curb and one on the street. You can also sit on a birth ball. These activities are beneficial since it opens up your pelvis and helps the baby go down. This should also be done for around 30 minutes.

Back labor is something that is stressful to think about but there are ways to help manage and control the pain. When it comes to options to ease labor pains, it is best to be equipped with the right knowledge and also work with your physician or birthing team in order to ensure you are doing the best thing for you and your situation.

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