In one of our previous blogs, we discussed women experiencing back pain during pregnancy. It is fairly common and is generally a side-effect of the fetus growing and developing in the uterus. Around 50% of pregnant women struggle with back pain throughout their pregnancy.
However, in some cases, the back pain isn’t a sporadic occurrence and instead takes permanent residency throughout the pregnancy term. This painful condition is known as sciatica and happens due to compression of the body’s largest nerve, the sciatic nerve.
Pregnant women in their third trimester are the most prone to developing sciatica, which either prevails until childbirth or prolongs into post-partum.
This article will explore everything you need to know about sciatica from pregnancy and how you can manage the pain.
In this Article
- 1 What is Sciatica?
- 2 What are the Symptoms of Sciatica during Pregnancy?
- 3 How to Treat or Relieve the Sciatica Pain during Pregnancy?
- 4 FAQs
- 5 Conclusion
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a type of back pain caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, located in the lumbar region or lower spine region of the body.
It is prevalent during the later part of pregnancy, especially with the growing and developing bump. Women with sciatica often complain about feeling a sharp and shooting pain that starts from the lower back region that gradually trickles down the back of the legs.
The degree of sciatica pain can range from mild to severe and depends on how badly the sciatic nerve is being compressed. Thankfully, the condition isn’t permanent and will resolve soon after childbirth in most pregnant women.
What causes Sciatica?
The onset of sciatica in general conditions has a plethora of reasons, including:
- Lumbar spine problems
- Bulging or herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Osteoarthritis, etc.
However, during pregnancy, the risks of sciatica are generally unrelated to any (or all) of the conditions mentioned above. Most pregnant women experience sciatica pain due to stiffness and rigidness in the muscles or pressure on the unstable joints in the body.
Additionally, as the pregnancy progresses, the body prepares itself for childbirth by widening the hips and loosening the ligaments. These sudden changes to the body’s anatomy impose a risk of directly irritating or pinching the sciatic nerve, leading to the excruciating pain and discomfort about which many complain.
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica during Pregnancy?
The symptoms of sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy are similar to what one would experience if one were not pregnant.
Around 1% of pregnant women struggle with sciatica during their pregnancy, making it a condition that needs attention. The pain caused by pinching the body’s largest nerve will vary from one person to the other. It typically depends on the degree of damage to which it is exposed. Depending on that, the pain can either be mild and dull or deep and throbbing.
Some of the most notable symptoms of sciatica include:
- Experiencing mild to severe degree of pain around one side of the leg or buttocks
- Descending pain from the hip down to the back of the thighs and legs
- Experiencing a sharp, shooting, and burning pain sensation
- Experiencing numbness or pin-prick-like sensation in the sciatic nerve path
- Experiencing difficulty standing upright or walking with the pain
Although the pain isn’t a permanent issue, it can affect one’s quality of life, especially during a taxing period like pregnancy. If you notice that the pain is progressively getting worse, it is always ideal to contact your OBGYN for further assistance.
How to Treat or Relieve the Sciatica Pain during Pregnancy?
As joyful as pregnancy is, we can’t deny that pregnancy takes a toll physically and emotionally. The changing body and the hormonal imbalance are bound to catch up to the mother at some point. Experiencing painful sciatica, on top of that, is debilitating.
It is true that the pain gets better with time and generally becomes non-existent after childbirth. However, you can’t rule out that it’s extremely damaging to an expecting mother’s physical health.
Following are some effective sciatica pain treatment in pregnancy you can try.
Sciatica generally occurs when the sciatic nerve is pinched, irritated, or compressed. The easiest way to relieve that pain and discomfort is by gently massaging the area.
We recommend you find massage therapists who specialize in prenatal massages, so they know what they are doing. Getting it done by a professional minimizes your risks of hurting the developing fetus within you.
Also, in case you experience any pressure or the pain increases during the massage, it is always better to stop it immediately.
Pregnancy often leads to fatigue, making the pregnant person stationary in one place. This might be a reason why the sciatic nerve is pinched or irritated. What you can do to relieve the pain is by indulging in some self-stretching at home.
Gentle stretching strengthens and makes the nerves and muscles a lot more flexible, reducing the risks of pain and discomfort you are likely experiencing.
While light stretching is considered safe, any kind of exercise or stretching that involves laying flat on the ground isn’t advisable, especially in the third trimester when the risk of sciatica is the most.
3. Hot and Cold Compress
If the symptoms of sciatica are getting worse for you, a cold compress or cold therapy can bring some temporary relief. Hot compress might not be a favorable option since it isn’t all-safe during pregnancy.
However, cold therapy can relieve pain and inflammation and also restore flexibility in the area. For some extra relief, we’d recommend alternating between cold and warm compresses to relieve the pain and promote better blood circulation in the area.
Also, don’t indulge in hot and cold therapy for more than 20 minutes per day.
4. Practice Good Posture
Poor posture is one of the most common triggers that lead to sciatica pain symptoms in pregnancy. Since your center of gravity changes as your pregnancy progresses, you will likely lean back to support the growing bump.
The sudden change in posture leads to strain on the lower back and might lead to sciatica in some serious situations.
Besides posture, being active and on the feet also helps relieve the pain and discomfort you are likely experiencing. If possible, stand up and walk around for a few minutes every half an hour.
5. Maternity Support Garments
Last on the list of treatment options for sciatica during pregnancy is wearing maternity support garments.
Studies have found that maternity garments that support the lower back and pelvic girdle region have potential benefits in preventing the risks of sciatica during the third trimester.
Wearing these garments help in supporting posture preventing risks of fall, and improving mobility during pregnancy. Given their growing popularity, they are now available commercially for easy purchase.
How can I move my baby off my sciatic nerve?
Two of the easiest ways to relieve sciatic nerve pain are by sleeping on the opposite side of the pain or sleeping with support in the surrounding with pillows.
What is the fastest way to cure sciatica?
Applying hot and cold therapy is the quickest way to relieve the pain and inflammation that happens due to compression of the sciatic nerve.
Can sciatica affect an unborn baby?
Sciatica doesn’t directly impact the growth or health of the developing fetus, so that’s not something you’d have to worry about at all.
Experiencing sciatic during pregnancy can be extremely frustrating. However, taking quick notice of the symptoms and implementing correct treatment is crucial to relieve the pain and discomfort. It can often worsen in pregnant women who have a habit of sitting down for long periods. So, include shorter walks every few hours to relieve the pain. Also, if the pain is accompanied by other symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and discomfort, we’d recommend consulting your OBGYN for further instructions.