Sciatica Nerve Pain: Is it Common During Pregnancy?


What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a name assigned to a group of symptoms experienced by women that is associated to sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve begins at the lower back and travels down to the back of the legs. It then branches out to the feet. Because of the sciatic nerve, one can feel sensations and move one’s muscles in the legs. Sciatica occurs when there is inflammation or pressure applied onto the back that makes the sciatic nerve painful. This condition is worse than back pain or pelvic girdle pain, because the pain is more constant and extremely wearisome.

What Causes Sciatica?

Most of the time, sciatica is associated with a slipped or injured disc. As a result, the way the nerve works become affected and causes the feeling of pins and needles or weakness on the leg. Sciatica can occur with or without backache and the pain can radiate to the back of the leg.

Is Sciatica Common During Pregnancy?

It is a common belief that sciatica is common among pregnant women. However, this belief was proven to be incorrect. Aches brought by pregnancy tend to be on the pelvic area and the back, not around the sciatic nerve. Moreover, sciatica is not caused by the pressure applied by the fetus onto the sciatic nerve.

You May Also like: Can Leg Cramps during Pregnancy be prevented?

How can a Woman Determine Whether She is Experiencing Sciatica?

There are several characteristics or symptoms that point out to sciatica as being the culprit of the pain felt. These manifestations include the following:

  • Pain: The pain felt is characterized as shooting and burning. Furthermore, it comes and goes and oftentimes it only affects one side. The pain may be felt at the lower back, behind the thigh, down to the back of one’s legs until the foot. Moreover, the pain may also be widespread or patchy.
  • Burning and tingling sensation on the legs.
  • Pins and needles or numbness on the foot or leg.

How is Sciatica Treated?

A pregnant woman who suspects to be experiencing sciatica must see her healthcare provider for confirmation. If sciatica is verified, she would be referred to a musculoskeletal physiotherapist. Furthermore, one can request to see a musculoskeletal physiotherapist who specializes in women’s health.

A musculoskeletal physiotherapist will recommend pregnant woman exercises that will help strengthen her pelvic floor, abdominal muscles, and back. Furthermore, the therapist may also advise the use of a pregnancy support belt for the expecting mother to wear. This belt can fit underneath the baby bump and around her back. Moreover, the therapist will closely watch the pregnancy and monitor nerve function.

Anti-inflammatory drugs can also help in easing the pain brought about by sciatica. However, the doctor may discourage intake of these drugs during pregnancy. Alternative therapies include osteopathy and chiropractic. An important measure to take though is to see a registered practitioner who is experienced in treating women, better yet, pregnant women.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Sciatica?

50% of the people with sciatica recover within 6 weeks and approximately 90% recover within 12 weeks. However, there are also a few who take much longer to recover. If a pregnant woman experiences sciatica during her pregnancy, it is expected to persist until the baby is about 6 months old.

What are The Self-Help Measures That Can Help Ease Sciatica?

There are also some measures that can provide temporary relief from sciatica. These measures include the following:

Ease Sciatica
  • Applying a heat pack or an ice pack on the painful area for about 10 minutes.
  • Wear flat and soft shoes. This will help prevent the jarring of the spine when walking. There are also instances when wearing shoes with small heels helps relief back pain.
  • Watch one’s posture. Make sure one keeps her back slightly arched. When sitting down it is best to use a small bolster cushion or a rolled up towel behind one’s back to support the spine.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects. If it is really necessary to lift a heavy object, bend from one’s knees and keep the back straight.
  • If one notices that an activity triggers sciatica, then stop doing that activity.
  • Stay mobile. Avoid long periods of inactivity.
  • Make use of pillows or cushions to support ones bump when lying down.

Also Read: Pregnancy Yoga: Everything You Need to Know

Will Sciatica Affect Labor and Delivery?

Yes. The positions that may be used during labor may become limited. Therefore, it is important to ask for an expert’s advice, such as a physiotherapist’s. He or she might suggest the use of a birth pool because it will make moving easier.

After childbirth, it is still important to look after one’s posture. For instance, when breastfeeding, it is important to sit on a straight-backed chair. Raising the baby to one’s breast with a cushion or pillow, and keeping one’s feet flat on the floor will help avoid sciatica.

When changing the baby’s clothes, it is best to do it on the changing station, rather than on the floor. When lifting the baby, keep ones back straight and make sure to avoid movements that may cause twisting of the nerves.

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Contributor : Fouzia Khan (Consumer Health Digest)

Fouzia Khan is a graduate from University of Lethbridge. She has years of teaching and research experience in Computer Science and Engineering. Apart from teaching she is passionate about conducting research, writing, and sharing new innovations of science with others.

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