I'm pregnant with my second child and am planning a natural birth. I was convinced by my doctor to induce with my first child because he was estimated at 9 lbs. Oh if I knew then what I know now! This time I am educating myself even more about natural birth and have been seeing a midwife who has been so awesome and supportive.

But, I have a big concern and wanted to know if anyone else has experienced this or knows anyone who has gone through this. I have a herniated disk and a torn disk, at L4-5 and L5-S1 respectively, with severe spinal stenosis for which I had surgery (a diskectomy) back in February (2009). I was the poster child for the operation until I went back to work and my disk reherniated in April. I have been through physical therapy, chiropractic therapy and massage therapy, which have helped tremendously. However, I'm still in daily pain and unable to work more than about 25 hours a week in the office due to the pain that increases while sitting. I'm lucky to still have my job (and health insurance).

Now, I'm 15 weeks pregnant and the pain has been acting up again since getting pregnant. I'm guessing this is because I'm stretching and my ligaments are more loose. However, my chiropractor (who is wonderful) is really concerned about how this pregnancy is going to affect my back and pain levels. Quite frankly, I'm scared that it will get as bad as it did before my surgery (which was so bad, I couldn't walk unassisted). He thinks I may have to have a c-section, or at least an epidural.

Is it still possible to have a natural childbirth? I'm getting conflicting opinions from the doctors. I'd like to hear from anyone who has experienced back problem with pregnancy and birth, from midwives or others who have seen situations like this, and any advice for how to prepare for a natural childbirth with this kind of situation. Please help! I want so desperately to have a better birth experience this time around and feel trapped because of this stupid back issue. I just need to know if someone has done this before and been okay. It would really boost my failing confidence and hope for a wonderful birth.


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I can't beleive that your chiro would recommend those things! My husband is a chiropractor and those words would never come out of his mouth even in your case. You can message me privately if you want, but I may be able to help you find someone in your area that specializes in pregnant women as well as babies. I don't think it is too late for you and there is hope that you can still have a natural birth.
Thanks Cindy!!! That's encouraging. I want to be realistic, you know? But, I also want to do whatever I can to have a natural, wonderful birth. Whether that means doing special exercises to help my back or anything else, I'm willing to do it rather than have another induction and/or epidural!

I'd love to get in touch with someone local who specializes in pregnancy and back issues! My current chiropractor is wonderful and I've literally seen him off and on for 20 years, for various car accidents and so forth. But, if there is someone who would be supportive of my desire for a natural birth and can help me achieve that despite my current challenges, then I'm in!!! :)

Hi Rachel, Id like to share my experience of having a home birth with a midwife and also having a herniated disk in my lower back from a car accident.

Before I was pregnanat with my first child I was in a car accident that left me with a terrible herniated disc. It actually went undiagnosed for a year because it never showed up in the x-ray. After tons of P.T, "pain management", cortizoine injections etc they finally sent me for an MRI. I was all set the have the same discectomy procedure as you did until my mom told me about a non surgical procedure (which can be very benificial to help you even though you already have had the surgery.) www.lordex.com

Well I ended up doing the lordex procedure and it worked. I was doing good then I went to pick up a 5 gallon paint buckent an all of a sudden I couldnt stand or walk. My husband and his friend had to carry me. I was so scared that I reherniated my disc I didnt know what to do. It was then when my husbands friend told me to just try this lady he knows that does nueromusular massage. She told me I didnt reherniate it but I had severly strained my back. Amazingly after 2 massages I was back to normal. A few months later we got pregnant. Id say that at about 4 or 5 months along my back was giving me trouble I went and got the nueromuscualr massage again and was fine the rest of the pregnancy.

When it was down to the final week or 2 before I was due I told my midwife I thought I would have back labor because my back was starting to get a bit sore again. She said the baby was in a great position that normaly doesnt cause back labor but only time would tell.

Sure enough when I went into labor it was all in my lower back. Im not gonna lie it was very painful but not as painful as some of those lightning bolts that used to shoot down my legs or the time i picked up the bucket and couldnt walk for 2 days. I kept thinking if I move like this or sit like that or bend this way or lay that way then my back pain would somehow get more comfortable. It wasnt until I tried every position and said ok, hello its not going to get comfortable. That was when I found my "zone" I just let my back and the contractions do their thing. I was in labor for 9 hours from start to finish and I had an amazing home birth. I was able to tolerate the pain and my back was fine after having my daughter. When she was a bout 6 months old I went for another nuromuscular massage because my back was acting up a bit. My daughter in now 16 months old and I havent had to get a massage done again.

However I am now pregnant with my second and my backs been giving me trouble I know that being pregnant alone puts a toll on your back but it doesnt help lugging a toddler and a diaper bag either :) I am going to make another massage apt to help with the pain but I am expecting to have back labor with this one as well. Like I said back labor is painful as hell but the pain I undured over a year of an undiagnosed herinated disc adds up to be worse. Im sure that for you having the herniated disc and going the surgery and experiencing pain to the point where you couldnt walk either will have been more painful than back labor. I believe it is something you could endure if you have gone through so much already. I wish you luck.

Nicole, thank you for sharing this. I've had back labor with each of my 5 births, but I still don't know why. The last one was breech, but the others were vertex, and there's no indication that any of them were posterior. Anyway, my doula, my husband and my midwife all used counter pressure on my hips (the double hip squeeze) and on my lower back during labor, and that helped a ton. You mentioned that you tried all different positions. Did you try any counter pressure? I'm curious if that might be helpful in your situation.

What you said about finding your zone is, I think, key for any woman in labor. No matter where the pain or discomfort is felt, or how bad it is, if you find that "zone" you can work with it and work through it. It's a beautiful experience discovering that and accomplishing so much.
Hi Cherylyn,
Thanks for the advise on the double hip squeeze. I did try that when I was in labor with my first. My husband and my midwife both tried and it helped as long as they didnt do it during the contractions. For whatever reason it felt better to ride out the back pain with the contractions without anyone touching my back.
Also I agree about the "zone" as well. It is so amazing when you are able to get in that spot. For me when I stopped fidgeting around trying to get "comfortable" I just let go. When I did that I was actually at peace. I could almost sleep through it. I was so quite that my husband kept asking how are you doing are you still having contractions? It was amazing.
Hi Nicole,

Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm feeling very encouraged that I can do this.

Congratulations on your second pregnancy? How far along are you? Are you planning another home birth?

It is a shame that it took the doctors so long to get a proper diagnosis for you. I was fortunate that my chiropractor recommended an MRI before I even saw an orthopedic specialist. I still waited nearly a year before having the surgery, mainly because I wanted to exhaust all non-surgical options first. I wish I could have avoided the surgery, especially since my disc re-herniated anyway (confirmed by another MRI that I insisted upon after I started having the same symptoms again after the surgery). But, the physical therapist that I saw after the re-herniation said that, because of the surgery, I have more room for the new herniation and I should be able to avoid additional surgery. I wish I had met this pt before my surgery. He was very helpful.

Thank you for the referral to the Lordex website. It looks like an interesting program. I got to try traction a couple times and found it to be very helpful. I've even considered buying an inversion table, but have put that off for now since I'm already in my second trimester and shouldn't be laying on my back too much until after we have the baby. The description of their physical therapy sounds similar to what my most recent physical therapist does. He really focused on targeting my abs and lower back muscles to strengthen them, reduce inflammation, and build flexibility. I may try to find out more about this program after I have the new baby since it looks like their program has patients on their back a lot. Was there anything in particular that you remember being most helpful from that program? Did you have to travel or was there a facility close by?

Yesterday, after reading your post, I started asking around for anyone who knows someone specializing in nueromuscular massage. No luck yet, but I'll keep looking. It would be beyond my greatest hopes to find that this type of massage would, with just a few sessions, decrease or actually eliminate my pain. I know most people who have herniated discs don't even know it and have little to no pain. I would love to join the ranks of those people! lol.

Interesting about the back labor. It has crossed my mind that I might have back labor, regardless of the position of the baby, just because of how sensitive my back is and the pain I'm already experiencing. But, you are right - it probably won't get any worse than what I've already been through. I used to be a wimp when it came to pain. Now, it takes me getting physically ill from the pain to stop me. :) I guess I might as well expect back pain during labor, that way I won't be disappointed. Then, if I don't have it, it will be a pleasant surprise. :P

Did you try soaking in the tub during your labor? I'll be laboring at home for as long as we can before heading to the hospital. I'm having a hospital birth again, though my hospital has rooms with large tubs for water births and laboring in the water. Now that my husband has learned more about home birth and is supportive, I plan to have home births with all future children, if possible (no complications, etc.). It is so exciting!

I think I understand what you mean about getting in your zone. Even though I was induced with my first, I avoided drugs for 12 hours of bizarre contractions (my body never got in a rhythm, probably wasn't ready) and though the contractions were really intense, I didn't have a lot of true pain. I just kinda zoned out and relaxed, like I had learned about from reading some Bradley books and Dr. Grantly Dick-Read's book "Childbirth without Fear". My doctor finally told me that my body was so tired that if I didn't have en epidural to give my body a rest, I would have a c-section. So, it took the epidural. Figures, huh? But, I have been practicing the relaxation techniques ever since, especially since I found out we are pregnant again. Being able to relax through the pain has been really helpful just in the past couple months. I've asked my husband to remind me to find this place when I'm in labor, to make sure I don't get caught up in any pain.

Did you practice any particular technique/theory for your birth - like Bradley or Hypnobirthing? We are planning on taking the Bradley classes this time around, but I've been reading about hypnobirthing. I'm not sure I'm much into the visualization stuff, but the information on relaxing and finding one's zone was pretty interesting. I'm collecting music on my laptop to play during labor this time, to help with this.

Last week I read two books on back pain and pregnancy, both of which have excellent recommendations and explanations for why pregnancy affects our backs so much. I will be starting a better stretching program this week and, if that goes well, I'll add more strengthening exercises (for my back) that are modified for my stage of pregnancy. If this doesn't help me improve, I'll go see my physical therapist again. If you are interested, the books are titled "The Other Side of Pregnancy" and "Preventing and Managing Back Pain During Pregnancy". The first is written by a chiropractor and the second by a physical therapist. I particularly like the philosophy of the chiropractor because he advocates teamwork in the medical profession - building your team of professionals who can each bring their expertise to bear for women and their pregnancies, while respecting the patient and educating them on their options.

I really appreciate your story and encouragement!!!! I kept telling myself that there HAD to be other women out there with back issues who still had natural births. I'm going to keep plugging along this path, doing my best to prepare my mind and body for a natural birth. It probably isn't going to be pain free. It probably isn't going to be exactly how I would wish it. But, it is still going to be beautiful and special, no matter what happens.


Nicole, same with Cherylyn, really thanks for sharing your experience.


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I would think an epidural would be the worst thing you could do actually. Since you already have a back injury(especially one that low) having the freedom to move around and total feeling of your back is key to not injuring yourself more in my opinion. If you were to get an epidural you would most likely end up pushing on your back which could put a lot of strain on that area and you wouldn't be able to tell if things were getting more injured. Even if you had great care givers who had you pushing in other positions, the lack of ability to feel what is completely happening seems like a recipe to more injury.

As a way to cope with the pain have you looked into waterbirth? I think that would be really soothing on your back because of the heat and you are more weightless in water, so moving around takes less effort. Not sure if that is an option in your area though.

As for the big baby the best birth I have been to(I'm a birth doula btw) was of a 10lb 7oz baby who was 23.5 inches and had a head and chest of 15.75 inches. We got to the hospital when mom was 7.5-8cm and 80%. Within 3 hours she was 10 and 100% and had yet to get in the bed besides to be checked upon admission, to have her water broken(her request) and the check to tell her she was 10. She spent the whole time upright using gravity and movement to move her baby down. One she was at 10cm she said she was tired and labored down for an hour in bed. She didn't start pushing till her body had moved a good portion of the babies head out on its own. The baby was born within 30min of her deciding she was ready to push and she only pushed with contractions she wanted to. She had a very small tear and the OB said the only reason she did tear was because of the 4th degree tear she had with her 1st child and it was just a weak spot.

I think as long as your care provider and birth team know about your injury and want for a natural labor you should all be able to come up with a care plan to help you achieve your goal.


Thanks for your reply! It has also crossed my mind that needles in that area might do more harm than good. And since I don't respond well to pain medication (nausea, puking), it may actually be the best thing to just go all natural and just deal with any pain.

You also make some excellent points about the possibility of additional injury. My chiropractor's greatest concern is that I'll herniate the second disc (the one that is just torn, but not herniated yet). If I can feel what is going on, change positions, and moderate the pressure on my back, I may be able to avoid additional injury. That would be awesome.

I am definitely interested in water birth! I know from doing therapy in the water that it helps significantly with reducing the pressure on my back and the resulting pain is reduced as well. Though I hope to have a home birth with future children (now that hubby has learned about it and is supportive - he thought I was crazy when I brought it up with our first child! lol), we are planning another hospital birth. Our hospital does have birthing rooms with large tubs for laboring and water births. Unless those are full when I go into labor, I should be able to get one of those rooms.

I love hearing about natural deliveries with larger babies. I wish I had known that large babies weren't necessarily a big deal before I had my first. If I had, I would NOT have allowed my OB to scare me into inducing! She was nice and everything, but her philosophy was that a natural birth (no interventions) was the exception and something that could happen only if everything lined up perfectly. I am so happy to be with an OB/midwife team with the opposite beliefs now - natural birth is the natural thing and intervention may be sometimes necessary, but should not be the first step.




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