- With Mayo Clinic obstetrician and medical editor-in-chief
Roger W. Harms, M.D.read biographyclose window
Roger W. Harms, M.D.Roger W. Harms, M.D.
"Nothing helps people stay healthy more than the power of real knowledge about health." — Dr. Roger Harms
As medical director of content, Dr. Roger Harms is excited about the potential for Mayo Clinic's health information site to help educate people about their health and provide them the tools and information to live healthier lives.
The Auburn, Neb., native has been with Mayo Clinic since 1981 and is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Harms is a practicing physician and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and his specialty areas include office gynecology, high-risk obstetrics and obstetrical ultrasound.
From 2002 to 2007, Dr. Harms was director for education at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dr. Harms was the 1988 Mayo Medical School Teacher of the Year and served as associate dean for student affairs and academic affairs. He is the co-author of the "Mayo Clinic Model of Education." In 2008, Dr. Harms was presented the Distinguished Educator Award, Mayo Clinic, Rochester.
Dr. Harms is vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and medical editor of the Pregnancy section on this website. In addition, Dr. Harms is editor-in-chief of the "Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy" book, a month-by-month guide to everything a woman needs to know about having a baby.
"My medical education experience has grown out of a love of teaching, and that is what this site is about," Dr. Harms says. "If any visitor to this site makes a more informed and thus more comfortable decision about his or her health because of the information we provide, we are successful."
Labor and delivery (7)
- Doula: Do you need a doula?
- Back labor: Childbirth myth or reality?
- Cord blood banking: What are the options?
- see all in Labor and delivery
Postpartum care (5)
- Postpartum thyroiditis: How long does it last?
- Lactation suppression: Can medication help?
- Sagging breasts: Inevitable after breast-feeding?
- see all in Postpartum care
Back labor: Childbirth myth or reality?
Does back labor really happen?
from Roger W. Harms, M.D.
The term "back labor" is sometimes used to describe labor in which the most discomfort is felt in the lower back, just above the tailbone — and yes, it really happens. Back labor sometimes occurs when the baby enters the birth canal faceup instead of facedown. That isn't always the case, however. Some women simply feel more tension in their backs during labor and delivery than others do.
Although you can't prevent back labor, you can ease back pain during labor. Consider these suggestions:
- Try physical activity. Take a walk, if you can.
- Change positions. Straddle a chair and lean forward or kneel against a pile of pillows or birthing ball. It might also help to get on your hands and knees, which takes the pressure off your spine. To give your arms a break, lower your shoulders to the bed or a floor mat and place your head on a pillow. When you're lying down, lie on your side rather than on your back.
- Try a firm back rub. You might ask your partner or labor coach to rub a tennis ball or other round object against your lower back.
- Use water massage. Stand under the spray of a warm shower, or ask your partner or labor coach to aim the water directly onto your lower back.
- Apply heat or cold. Soothe your lower back with ice packs or a heating pad.
- Consider medication. Epidural and spinal anesthesia can temporarily block pain in your lower body. Although not widely used, some research suggests that an injection of sterile water to the lower back can provide temporary — but potentially significant — relief from back pain during labor.
Work with your health care team to evaluate your options for pain relief during labor. Whether you experience back labor or feel labor pain elsewhere, being familiar with pain management techniques can give you a greater sense of control.Next question
Cord blood banking: What are the options?
- Kushtagi P, et al. Effectiveness of subcutaneous injection of sterile water to the lower back for pain relief in labor. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica. 2009;88:231.
- Tzeng Y, et al. Low back pain during labor and related factors. Journal of Nursing Research. 2008;16:213.
- Bergstrom L, et al. How caregivers manage pain and distress in second-stage labor. Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health. 2010;55:38.
- Albers LL. The evidence for physiologic management of the active phase of the first stage of labor. Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health. 2007;52:207.
- Pain relief during labor and delivery. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp086.cfm. Accessed Nov. 17, 2011.