Sciatic pain is possible during normal pregnancy, it may appear at any time but often develops during the second and third trimesters, when the baby gets heavier and is carried lower in the abdomen.
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Pregnancy sciatica can have various possible origins: compression, irritation… Pregnant women may feel burning, numbness, or tingling in the buttocks and hips that move towards the back of the legs (thighs and calves) to the feet.
The irritation or inflammation of the mother’s sciatic nerve is the most common cause of pain. Starting from the lumbar spinal cord in the low back, the sciatic nerve crosses the buttock to send nerve endings down the lower limb.
During pregnancy, sciatic nerve pain is a temporary discomfort that can range from mild to severe. It can be deep and dull or sudden and sharp, depending on the pressure exerted on the nerve. However, symptoms often disappear with treatment and rest.
Causes Of Sciatic Pain During Pregnancy
Sciatica pain is a common symptom that may be associated with lumbar or pelvic disorders. It frequently occurs during pregnancy due to significant changes in a woman’s body: weight gain, ligaments loosen, posture shifts… All this can result in a pinched or inflamed sciatic nerve.
During the second and third trimesters, weight gain and increased fluid retention put extra pressure on the sciatic nerve that runs through the pelvis and hips, causing discomfort and pain in your lower back, buttocks or legs.
Occasionally, during the third trimester, when the baby moves vertically to the birth position, his head may rest directly on the nerve. This can increase the pressure exerted on the sciatic nerve, leading to severe pain in the buttocks, legs, and back.
As pregnancy progresses, relaxin hormone increases the elasticity of the pelvic ligaments to facilitate delivery. However, this also causes joint instability in the back and pelvis, resulting in significant shifts in the center of gravity and inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
Joint instability combined with physiological changes during pregnancy can induce pregnant women to overuse some muscles, such as those in the buttocks, which can compress the sciatic nerve while moving.
Sciatica due to a herniated disc is not common during pregnancy. However, previous lower back pain can also affect the sciatic nerve, increasing the risk of sciatic pain while pregnant.
When To Seek Medical Advice?
Although sciatica is often associated with lumbar pain, it can be present without lower back pain. Serious sciatica can make walking difficult or even impossible. You should seek medical advice if the pain becomes intense and affects your everyday activities.
The doctor will be able for instance to confirm if your sciatica is related to your pregnancy itself or to another specific illness such as a herniated disc, for example. He can also recommend a physical therapist or massage therapist if required.
These health care providers for lumbago will monitor you during your pregnancy to make sure your nerves are working properly. They can also help you with various exercises to improve your posture and strengthen your pelvic floor, abdominal and back muscles.
When it comes to medications, anti-inflammatory drugs generally used to relieve sciatica are not recommended during pregnancy. However, the doctor may suggest analgesic treatment that will reduce the pain while protecting both you and your baby.
Pregnancy Sciatica Relief
Sciatic pain is clearly not a part of pregnancy that pregnant women want to remember. However, most spine specialists and gynecologists recommend these tips to relieve the pain or prevent the sciatic nerve inflammation.
1. Use a Pregnancy Belt
When correctly adjusted, the pregnancy belt will stabilize your pelvic sacroiliac region, and reduce lower back and sciatic pain associated with movement.
Best Maternity Belt To Try
2. Apply Heat And Cold Packs
Apply a warm heating pad or ice pack to the painful area. Alternating hot and cold compresses will help to reduce muscle tension and reduce inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
It is recommended to apply a comfortable heat in a suitable lying position for 20 minutes. To get better results, heat should be applied before a massage or stretching exercise on your back and buttocks.
Best Heat and Cold Pads To Try
3. Do Some Stretching Exercises
Yoga, massage, and stretching exercises can reduce sciatic pain and improve back and pelvic stability. Stretching can decrease muscle tension and increase the movement of the hips, lower back, and legs.
You can get help from your chiropractor or to identify the most appropriate exercises for your situation.
4. Stay Active
An active and healthy lifestyle will keep your muscles strong, enabling you to support your baby’s weight. Be sure to regularly change positions to stay active during the day, sciatic pain can become more intense if you sit or stand for long periods of time.
Swimming is a good way to eliminate some of the sciatic pain during pregnancy. Into the water, your body feels weightless and this will help to ease pressure on the sciatic nerve.
6. Sleep Safely
Lie on the opposite side where you feel pain and place a pregnancy pillow or regular pillow between your knees. This will support the pelvis and remove pressure from the sciatic nerve. For a comfortable sleep, use a firm mattress that offers excellent back support.
Best Pregnancy Pillows To Try
7. Avoid Carrying Heavy Objects
Do not carry or move heavy objects during pregnancy. If you really can’t avoid these kinds of tasks, make sure you maintain a correct posture.
Keep your back straight, bend your knees and gently squeeze your lower abdomen. This will allow your knees to support your weight instead of your back.
8. Use Appropriate Footwear
Use appropriate footwear and avoid shoes that allow weight support backward, such as high heels, as they increase pressure on the lower back and legs.
How Long Does Sciatic Pain Last During Pregnancy?
In general, the duration of sciatica depends essentially on its cause. Temporary forms of sciatica may last from days to weeks. However, chronic sciatica can sometimes persist until a surgical intervention is performed.
During pregnancy, sciatica symptoms most often improve within six weeks after delivery, while some may persist for about 12 weeks. When the pain is severe, mild symptoms can last for six months to (sometimes) years after delivery.