Neck Pain and Pregnancy - How Do I Get Relief?

The proverbial "pain in the neck" can quickly become a reality for women who are pregnant. Along with the common back pain associated with pregnancy, neck pain often shows up, either as an accoutrement to the back pain, or as an item on its own. However, it happens, neck pain can be enough to rob a pregnant woman of that much-coveted "good night's sleep", and adds to the already mounting list of aches and pains that go along with the joy of pregnancy.

No-Where To Put My Body

Obtaining a comfortable position during the night is a feat for most women who are pregnant. Constant tossing and turning, looking for the right place to put legs, back and belly, often ends up with a neck that has been twisted into places a neck should never go. What's the cause of such discomfort? You can chalk most of it up to hormonal changes in the body. As a woman's body prepares for pregnancy and delivery, specific hormones are released to encourage the body to open and flex in places that are normally more rigid. With the sudden influx of these hormones, the muscles and ligaments become loose and more flexible than ever. This allows for the body to accommodate the growing belly and the shift in the center of gravity that happens as the uterus expands with the developing baby. It also means that the back and neck have to support weight that is in excess of what they normally handle. The additional weight puts terrific strain on the back and neck muscles. The good news is that the stiff neck and back pain can often be handled with the use of a back and neck support pillow.

Relieving The Pain

There are a few things a woman can do to help herself along should neck pain be an issue. First of all, don't ignore the pain. The intensity of it can be reduced by not sleeping with too many pillows-something a lot of women do because they are looking for the perfect position to ensure at least a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. It may be useful to use two pillows under the knees to relieve any stress on the back muscles and use one cervical pillow under the head and neck.  Icing works wonders. Using ice packs on the neck will prevent swelling and reduce pain. Of course, knowing that prevention is better than cure, doing neck exercises and stretching the neck daily along with some mild abdominal and back exercises (until the last few weeks of pregnancy) will help to keep the pressure off the neck and back.

When Neck Pain Isn't Normal

If neck pain arises in the very early stages of pregnancy, it could be a warning that things are not well. One of the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy is shoulder pain, caused by blood from a rupture pressing on the diaphragm. A tubal pregnancy is sometimes hard to diagnose and often it isn't until there is gross pain or bleeding that it comes to light. Obstetricians are keen to warn all women to watch for pain and bleeding, including shoulder and neck pain, as they are signs of a possible ectopic pregnancy.

Preeclampsia And HELLP Syndrome

Another disorder that presents with shoulder pain is preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders associated with pregnancy. These disorders are a leading cause of illness and death in pregnant mothers and their unborn babies. Shoulder pain, often called referral pain, since it comes from the liver, may be a sign of HELLP syndrome. The acronym is a combination of "H" for hemolysis, the breakage of red blood cells, "EL" for elevated liver enzymes, and "LP" for low platelet count. It is a syndrome that is a complication of preeclampsia and eclampsia, also known as toxemia, and it occurs in about 25% of pregnancies. This condition requires immediate medical intervention.


Meningitis is an inflammatory disease of the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord, usually the result of an infection. The well-known symptoms associated with meningitis are headache, fever and a stiff neck. Listeriosis is a bacteria that is known to promote meningitis, especially in pregnant women, because the bacteria crosses the placenta and manifests in inflammation. Meningitis is mortally dangerous to unborn babies. Women who come in contact with others who have meningitis are advised strongly to contact their physicians immediately.

Most of the time, neck pain during pregnancy is quite benign, but it needs to be checked out regardless. Generally, all it takes to fix the problem is a new pillow - and that's a good thing.




Login to comment

Post a comment