Joint Pain and Stiffness in New Mothers – How to Overcome It

Nine months of pregnancy can take quite a toll on a woman’s body. People often hear about terms related to a woman’s body after birth such as postpartum depression, or spider veins in the legs, and off-balance hormones.

Although many women suffer from postpartum joint pain, it doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention. New mothers who suffer from joint pain often feel a great sense of frustration during this important stage of their baby’s early development.

Causes of Postpartum Joint Pain

The most common complaint from women during and after pregnancy is back pain. During pregnancy, the extra weight on the body puts excess pressure on the spine.

And after childbirth, the back pain sometimes increases due to lifting and carrying the baby.

Another factor of joint pain in new mothers is the expansion of the muscles and ligaments during pregnancy.

Your body releases a hormone called relaxin during gestation that allows the ligaments attached to the pubic bone to relax.

Postpartum Joint Pain

In this relaxed state, the ligaments are stretched way beyond their normal limit. Doctors agree that a woman’s body typically takes between 4 to 9 months to recover. During this phase, many women may experience joint discomfort due to biochemical changes as the ligaments tighten up in their body.

Another contributing factor to postpartum joint pain results from the repetitive movements of lifting, carrying, and feeding your baby.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, complaints of back pain in new mothers are very common due to the amount of care a newborn often requires.

During these early years, mothers may need to lift their newborns up to 50 times a day. That’s like repetitively lifting 7 to 10 pound weight throughout the day. The overuse of your joints at this initial stage combined with the miracle of childbirth, and the lack of sleep can be a recipe for disaster for some unfortunate new mothers.

Preventing the Joint Pain and Stiffness

The good news is that there are steps to help you control your pain. Let’s start with the most common complaint of back pain. What can you do to help ease your back discomfort?

First and foremost, start an exercise routine as soon as possible after delivery or after permission from your doctor. The goal of this routine is to help restore the core muscles of the abdominals and lower back.

Another positive byproduct of exercise is that it will help you return to your normal pre-pregnancy weight quicker. Losing your pregnancy pounds will take some of the stress off your joints.

Post Pregnancy Exercises

These exercises will help to strengthen the crucial muscles of the core. This routine can be performed up to five times a week for optimal results.

Knees to Chest

Start face up on the floor with both knees bent. Grab your knees and pull them toward your chest. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then repeat 10 times.

Single Knee to Chest

Start face up on the floor with both knees bent. Raise one leg and pull your knee toward your chest. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.

Perform 10 repetitions of this exercise.

Pelvic Tilt

Start face up on the floor with both knees bent. Tighten your abdomen and gluteus muscles in such a way that your lower back presses against the floor.

Hold this position for 5 seconds and then repeat 10 to 15 times

Proper Baby Lifting Tips

By lifting your baby properly, you will dramatically reduce your risk of injury. Here are some useful lifting tips to apply next time you lift your newborn:

  • Don’t stretch your arms to grab your baby, instead bring the baby close to your chest before lifting.
  • Always try to avoid twisting your body when lifting.
  • Before picking up your baby, bend at your knees and squat down, instead of bending over at the waist.
  • When squatting to pick up your baby, tighten your abdomen muscles for support.
  • During breast-feeding, bring the baby to your breast, rather than bending over the baby.

Alternative Methods for Easing Joint Pain

Along with postpartum  exercise and proper body mechanics, there are several alternative methods that may assist in alleviating joint pain:

  • Acupuncture – this ancient Chinese method can assist in pain relief by blocking pain signals throughout the body.
  • Shoes – proper shoes can help support your feet, ankles, hips, knees, and back.
  • Supplements – nutrients like glucosamine and MSM can help provide lubrication and nourishment to your joints.

By making informed choices in regard to exercising, proper lifting, and alternative medical choices, you can go a long way in overcoming postpartum joint pain.


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