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Sciatica In Pregnancy: Everything You Need To Know

7 min read

During pregnancy, different types of pain bother the expecting mother. It is better to know the reasons and symptoms of these pains so that managing the issue will be relatively easier. Continue reading to know more about Sciatica, a nerve pain caused due to an irritated sciatic nerve.
sciatica pain

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica, otherwise called the lumbosacral radicular syndrome, refers to a group of symptoms brought about by compression and aggravation of the sciatic nerves. Sciatica pain commonly starts from the low back, passes through the back of the thigh, and branches out towards the knee. Sciatic pain can be either a deep and dull pain or a shooting and sharp pain. It can likewise range from mild to severe. It usually disappears with treatment.

Will Pregnancy Cause Sciatica?

The answer is No! You are not prone to sciatica if you are pregnant. It is common to feel a few aches and pain in the back and your pelvic area which is more likely to be caused by pelvic griddle pain than sciatica.
Pregnancy does not put you at a greater risk of damaging a disc in your spine which is a common trigger for sciatica. But sitting for long periods and poor posture can cause sciatica. So it is advisable to stay active and stretch out during pregnancy.

Causes Of Sciatica During Pregnancy
  • A previously displaced disk or a herniated disc can bring about Sciatica during pregnancy
  • Muscle tension and wobbly joints can also cause sciatica. An increase in pregnancy hormones like relaxin can cause the ligaments to relax and stretch, particularly in the pelvic area, giving rise to unstable joints
  • Increasing belly and breasts can change your center of gravity causing the muscles of the butt and pelvic region to tighten and put pressure on the sciatic nerve
  • If you suffer from gestational diabetes during pregnancy, it can also cause sciatica
  • Increased weight gain and fluid retention during pregnancy can put pressure on the sciatic nerve
  • Any kind of tumor, abscess or bleeding in the pelvis can damage the sciatic nerve
  • Once you enter the third trimester of your pregnancy, the baby starts shifting into birth position. The baby may directly position itself on the sciatic nerve adding pressure and leading to severe pain
Symptoms Of Sciatica During Pregnancy

The signs and symptoms of sciatica are, most of the time, almost identical to those of pelvic girdle pain (PGP). The only thing is that sciatica pain is more severe. The pain can remain constant or come and go at irregular intervals. Here are some of the common symptoms of sciatica:

  • Sciatica usually affects only one side of the lower body
  • Sciatic pain in the leg can vary in both strength and way of spreading
  • Symptoms of sciatica intensifies while walking or bending down
  • There is a feeling of burning or a tingling sensation in the leg
  • A feeling of numbness or pins and needles in the leg or foot also indicates an aggravated sciatic nerve
  • Pain in the leg that gets worse when sitting
  • Feels like a shooting, burning pain that comes and goes and often affects just one side
  • Moving the leg or foot becomes difficult
  • When the severity of sciatica pain increases, it can be really difficult to walk
Who Are More Likely To Develop Sciatica In Pregnancy?

Women are more prone to sciatica during pregnancy if:

  • They are overweight
  • They have a job that demands sitting for a long period
  • They used to smoke
  • They are having issues with back and osteoporosis
  • They have an injured lumbar spine
  • They have poor postures while standing and sitting

sciatica during pregnancy

How To Prevent Sciatica In Pregnancy?

Completely preventing sciatica is not possible as there are various causes that cannot be controlled by the pregnancy woman. However, the following measures help to reduce the chances of developing sciatica during pregnancy.

  • Monitoring the weight gain throughout pregnancy and sticking to recommended weight gain
  • Practice yoga or other physical activities throughout pregnancy which can reduce the chances of Sciatica in pregnancy
  • Follow a healthy diet with sufficient vitamins and minerals
  • Avoid sitting and standing in the same position for a long time
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects that stain the spine
  • Always support the back while sitting
  • Sleep on a firm mattress
  • Don’t use high heel shoes during pregnancy that can put pressure on the spine
Treating Sciatica During Pregnancy

Even though 50% of the pregnant women recover within 6 weeks and nearly 90% pregnant women recover within 12 weeks, some pregnant women take a longer time to recover from Sciatica. Recovery completely relies on severity. An extremely severe sciatica in pregnancy can last more than six months after delivery.
A musculoskeletal physiotherapist who is focused on women’s health can help you to manage sciatica in pregnancy. He usually advocates:

  • Specific physical therapy exercises to strengthen and conditioning the pelvic floor, back and tummy muscles, thereby, alleviating the pain and discomfort due to Sciatica
  • Wearing a pregnancy support belt to reduce the chances of further aggravation of the sciatic nerve
  • Medication involves anti-inflammatory medicines, pain relievers, muscle relaxants that are safe during pregnancy
  • A prenatal massage, particularly during the second and third trimesters can help to relieve the symptoms of Sciatica
  • Other therapies that may help to treat sciatica include osteopathy, acupuncture, and chiropractic. However, make sure that you consult a registered practitioner who is experienced in treating pregnant women
6 Stretches That Will Relieve Sciatica Pain During Pregnancy

Stretching help to relieve sciatic pain by lessening muscle strain and increasing movement in the hips, lower back, and legs. Sciatic pain may turn out to be more terrible if you remain sitting or stand for long periods of time. So make sure you alter the positions all through the day.
Even though stretches and exercise help to relieve pain and to cure sciatica, when you are pregnant, you should select exercises and stretches that will not harm the normal course of pregnancy. Here are some of the exercises and stretches recommended during pregnancy to treat Sciatica. Perform it under supervision only:

  1. Pelvic tilt: This exercise, as the name implies, tilt or bends the pelvis up, thereby, helps to align the body and lower back. Lie with your back on the floor. Relax. Now raise the knee until the feet are flat. Tighten the abdominal muscle and slowly bend the pelvis up. Hold on for some time and slowly come back to normal position
  2. pevic rocking

  3. Squats: Squats during pregnancy help to relieve the symptoms of sciatica
  4. squatting

  5. The child pose: Child pose is a simple stretching exercise, in which the lower back portion and the rib cage of the body stretches. Sit straight on the floor, bending the knees. Slowly stretch both your hands on the floor, bend down your head, nestle your over-sized belly between your thighs. Bend as low as possible. Keep on in the posture for about two minutes and slowly come back to the previous position
  6. child pose

  7. Tailor sitting: Tailor sitting is an exercise highly recommended for sciatica in pregnancy. It helps to stretch muscles in the lower back and thighs, as well as stretch the sciatic nerve
  8. tailor sitting

  9. Torso twist: The torso twist stretches the sciatic nerve without bringing about additional pressure on the body. As it is performed by sitting down, there is no risk of tumbling and hurting your baby. Sit straight on the floor or chair. Now slowly turn the back and upper torso to one side. You can support yourself with the left hand while you turn left side and the right hand while you turn right side
  10. turbo twist

  11. Pigeon pose: This is a popular yoga pose, which effectively relieves sciatic pain during pregnancy. Go down on your knees on the floor. Stretch the left leg behind as far as possible. Slide right knee forward. Placing a rolled towel or yoga block under right hip will provide more space for the belly and helps to stretch easily
  12. pigeon pose

Will Sciatica Affect My Labor?

Some labor positions may trigger sciatica pain so it is advisable to consult a physiotherapist on how to manage sciatica during labor. Also using a birth pool can help with the sciatica pain as it will make moving easier for you.

Will Sciatica Make Caring For My Baby Difficult?
  • If you have been experiencing sciatica pain during pregnancy, then you will need to take care of your posture even after the delivery so that the pain does not aggravate and hinder your day to day activities with the baby
  • Also if you have had a previous back surgery or slipped disc problems and have had sciatica during pregnancy, the pain is most likely going to bother you for the next 6 months. As with any back condition, you’ll need to look after your posture
  • You can practice the above mentioned stretches and exercises to get some relief and improve your overall fitness, flexibility and strength. You can also consult a physiotherapist who can help you manage this pain so that it doesn’t become permanent
  • While you are breastfeeding your baby try lying on your side keeping the painful side up. This will help relieve the pressure on your spine and provide you comfort from the pain
  • If you prefer to breastfeed your baby in a sitting position, then make sure that you sit straight on a chair with a good back support. Use a feeding / nursing pillow to breastfeed your baby and keep your feet flat touching the floor
  • Also whenever you have to change your baby, make sure that you do it on a changing station or a table and not on the floor
  • When you have to lift your baby always keep your back straight and bend your knees

We hope all this will help you manage sciatica in a better way during and after pregnancy.
Did you experience Sciatica during pregnancy? How did you manage it? Do share your experience in the comments section below.

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