You are currently viewing The Complete Guide to Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy: What it is, Symptoms, Causes and Remedies
Pregnancy pain. Unhappy sick pregnant woman being in painful physical state while leaning on working table

Growing a baby puts your body through a lot. As you get further along in your pregnancy and your baby grows, you experience more physical changes as your body tries to adapt, so aches and pains during pregnancy are not at all an unusual complaint. Back pain is by far one of the most common types of pain experienced by women during those vital nine months. Sciatica, or pain of the sciatic nerve, is one of the most extreme forms of back pain you can experience during pregnancy and can be quite excruciating.

 Therefore, in this article, we will be discussing everything you need to know to about sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy. We will be discussing what symptoms you may experience, and what causes these symptoms and finally, we will talk about some remedies, you can try to help relieve this pain, including those you can do alone in the comfort of your own home.

So please, follow along if you are looking for some useful tips, or are simply just interested in knowing more about the connection between pregnancy and back pain.

Are you Experiencing Sciatic Nerve Pain or Regular Back Pain?

What Sciatic Nerve Pain Feels Like:

 As we have touched on already, sciatic nerve pain is the most painful form of back pain that you can experience during pregnancy. You may be wondering how to tell the difference between bad back pain and sciatica.

Well, sciatica is described as being a ‘radiating pain’, ‘burning sensation’ or a feeling of ‘tingling and numbness’ which travels from the lower spine (where the sciatic nerve is located) to the backs of your thighs. Sciatic nerve pain will always be felt in these areas as the sciatic nerve is the main nerve in the legs and the largest nerve in the body. It runs from the back to the buttocks and the legs, ankles, and feet. If you are experiencing pain in any other area, or if it is only situated in the lower back, then you can probably rule out sciatica.

 Remember, most women experience some form of back pain while pregnant, but not all experience sciatica. But how can you tell the difference?

Allow us to shed some light as we talk about some of the symptoms of sciatica.

Symptoms That Indicate That You Are Experiencing Sciatica:

 Sciatic causes several aches and pain ranging from extremely severe to only mild pain. Some of the pains you are likely to experience with this condition include:

*Sharp, shooting pain (often this is said to be like experiencing an electric shock) in the lower back or thighs. This is usually the main symptom.

*Pain between the buttocks, back, thigh and foot (the sciatic nerve path).

*Difficulty walking, sitting, or standing without pain.

*Back pain which is more intense when you sit for a long time.

*Radiating pain when you cough or sneeze.

*Traveling pain between the hips and the thighs.

*Burning sensations which may be felt in the buttocks or lower back.

*A numbness, tingling sensation or mild to severe muscle weakness in one foot or leg.

*Experiencing pins and needles in your legs (the feeling you have when your leg goes to sleep).

*You may also experience poor bladder control.

 If you do think what you are experiencing may be sciatica, do not worry! Luckily this condition is only temporary, and you are not without relief! There are many things you can do to help lessen this pain which we will be discussing shortly. But first, let us talk about what causes sciatic nerve pain.

 The Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy:

 Normally, sciatica occurs when the spine experiences some form of compression which pinches the sciatic nerve which then leads to pain, numbness and inflammation. Sciatica can occur outside of pregnancy due to a range of conditions such as an overgrowth of bone (called a bone spur) on the vertebrae, due to a spasm of the piriformis (which is a muscle in the buttocks), or as a result of lumbar spine problems such as a herniated disk.

 However, during pregnancy, it is more likely that sciatic nerve pain is a result of the body preparing itself for birth. When a woman is pregnant, her body excretes more of a certain hormone called ‘relaxin’. This hormone helps relax the ligaments in the pelvis to prepare for the baby’s birth. However, the shifting, stretching, and loosening of these ligaments can cause the sciatic nerve to get pinched, which results in sciatic nerve pain. Additionally, conditions such as pelvic bone pain, piriformis syndrome and sacroiliac joint problems commonly also increase a woman’s chances of experiencing sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy.

 Furthermore, especially during the third trimester, the baby’s weight puts extra weight on the sciatic nerve. Extra weight on top of unstable ligaments and tense muscles aid in extreme discomfort as your centre of gravity changes which can then pinch the sciatic nerve. So, extra weight gain, as well as fluid retention in the final trimesters can cause (or worsen) sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy.

 Additionally, sciatica during pregnancy may be caused by your expanding uterus pushing down on the lower part of your spine; your growing tummy and breasts shifting your weight and causing your lordotic curve to stretch and pinch the sciatic nerve, or your baby settling into a birthing position and pushing its head directly onto the sciatic nerve. The position of the baby in the uterus may also worsen sciatic nerve pain and as the baby gets more active, you may find your sciatic nerve pain increasing.

 If you are concerned about what this means for the baby, do not worry! Sciatic nerve pain may be horrible and inconvenient for the mom, but it does not affect or harm the baby. It is also normal for sciatic nerve pain to come on a lot faster for second-time moms who may experience symptoms a lot earlier and more intensely.

 While sciatica is known to occur especially during the third trimester of pregnancy, it can occur at any stage between conception and birth. Moreso, the pain can either come and go, or it can remain constant.

If you are experiencing sciatic nerve pain, then you may find our next section very helpful as we discuss the various remedies you can employ to relieve your sciatic nerve pain.

 What Can You Do to Help Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy?

Seeking Professional Medical Advice to Manage Sciatic Nerve Pain:

 The first and most obvious solution is to book an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to recommend or prescribe over-the-counter medications which may help your back pain without causing harm to your baby.

 You can also consider booking an appointment with a physical therapist or chiropractor. It can be a good idea to employ a professional who will be able to properly examine you and provide tailored advice. A physical therapist will likely recommend strength-building exercises and stretches that will help to relieve your sciatic nerve pain.

 Another possible solution is to book regular massages. Some research shows that massages have many benefits for pregnant women. For example, massages can aid better blood flow, decrease stress levels, and even help regulate hormones which may help with sciatic nerve pain.

 What You Can Do at Home to Manage Your Sciatic Nerve Pain:

 A mixture between applying heat and then ice is often one of the best ways to treat this kind of pain. Hot showers and heating pads or hot water bottles can be very effective to relax tense muscles aggravated by carrying around the extra baby weight. Additionally, using ice packs on your pelvis, buttocks and back can help soothe sciatic nerve pain.

 Next, try to keep moving around if possible. Gentle movement, like going for a walk or doing some yoga is a very good way to soothe tense, sore muscles as well as to help stretch the muscles in the buttocks, legs and hips and to decrease pressure on the impacted nerve.

Do not do too much rapid moving – avoid running, twisting or bending. Instead, opt for gentle, low-impact, non-weight-bearing exercises such as swimming. This can help deal with sciatic nerve pain as it helps to strengthen muscles in the back – with the bonus of helping to release some stress as well! Kegel exercises combined with pelvic tilts can help by strengthening abdominal muscles and reducing inflammation.

 Try to sleep on your side and use a body pillow. This will help to bring the pelvis into better alignment and will take the pressure from the compressed nerve. You should also lie down on the side which is not affected by sciatic pain. Also, make sure to sleep on a firm mattress that offers back support.

 Also, try to pay attention to your weight gain and try to gain weight as steadily as possible to avoid putting too much pressure on the sciatic nerve. You can ask your doctor about how much weight you should personally gain per trimester to avoid negative health complications such as sciatica.

 Finally, in the next section, we will give you a rundown of some easy but effective stretches you can do at home to help manage your sciatica. It is a good idea to keep up with these habits, even after pregnancy, if sciatica continues postpartum. While most do experience a full recovery from sciatica after giving birth, some may experience sciatic symptoms, even postpartum because of weakened muscles. It is therefore important to build up your strength while also taking enough time to properly rest. If the pain does not get better or continues to get worse after pregnancy, you must see a doctor.

 Step-By-Step Guide for Stretches to Help Sciatic Nerve Pain:

Before we get started, it is important to note that you should avoid any stretches that require you to lay on your back as this may cause the uterus to put pressure on a large vein which leads to the heart and would therefore make you feel weak or lightheaded. This would not be safe for you or the baby.

 1) The ‘Seated Piriformis’ Stretch

This stretch targets the piriformis muscle in the buttocks. Spams of this muscle can result in sciatica, so this stretch is aimed at releasing the tightness in this muscle which may irritate the sciatic nerve.

*Begin by sitting on a chair and placing your feet together, flat on the ground.

*Next, identify which leg is affected. For example, if your right side is experiencing pain, place your right ankle on your left knee.

*Straighten your back and begin to lean towards your knees until you feel a stretch in your buttocks. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and repeat it several times a day.

2) The ‘Pigeon’ Pose

This stretch targets the hip rotators and flexor muscles. You will need a towel or yoga block to perform this popular yoga pose.

*Begin on your hands and knees making sure you are well-balanced.

*Next, bring your right knee forward in between your hands and take your left leg back, making sure to keep your foot flat on the floor.

*Take your towel and roll it or reach for your yoga block and place it under your right hip. This will allow room for your baby belly.

*Slowly lean forward onto your right knee, lowering yourself towards the ground. Maintain this pose for 1 minute and repeat throughout the day.

3) The ‘Table’ Stretch

This stretch helps to stretch the muscles in the sciatic nerve path (lower back, hamstrings in legs and buttocks). You will need a table sturdy enough to support your body weight to perform this pose.

*Begin standing facing towards a table making sure that your feet are placed only slightly wider apart than your hips.

*Next, place your hands on the table and lean forward. Your arms must be stretched out in from of you and your back must stay straight.

*Slowly move your hips in the opposite direction of the table until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs and lower back. Maintain for 30 seconds to a minute and repeat twice daily.

To Sum It Up…

Sciatic nerve pain, or sciatic, is one of the most extreme forms of back pain that a woman can experience during pregnancy. In this complete guide to sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy, we have covered topics concerning what sciatic nerve pain feels like, the symptoms, causes and even remedies for sciatica. Try some of the stretches we discussed above to help you manage your pain.

Leave a Reply