By Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, Mary Duenwald

Backaches are a common symptom that many women experience during pregnancy. They typically occur in the latter part of pregnancy, although they can occur earlier. The shift in your center of gravity can be one cause. Another can be the change in the curvature of your spine as the baby grows and the uterus enlarges.

You may get some relief by getting off your feet when you can, applying mild local heat, and taking acetaminophen (Tylenol). Patients often ask about using a specially designed pregnancy girdle that they’ve seen advertised or heard about. Although some patients say this girdle helps; others don’t think so.

Some women experience pain extending from their lower back to their buttocks and down one leg or the other. This pain, or less commonly, numbness, is known as sciatica, which is due to pressure on the sciatic nerve, a major nerve that branches from your back, through your pelvis, to your hips, and down your legs.

You can relieve mild cases of sciatica with bed rest, warm baths, or heating pads. If you develop a severe case, you may need prolonged bed rest or special exercises.

Occasionally, preterm labor can present itself as low back pain. However, when it’s preterm labor, the pain is more cramp-like and it comes and goes, rather than being continuous.