Sciatica during pregnancy: How to relieve the pain


by Sheila H. Bonds, MD

Nov 19, 2017

For those moms out there who are carrying babies, there can be a number of aches and pains. You may find yourself hurting in places you never thought possible and kicking your feet up after a long day.

Carrying a baby can be hard on your body, and a number of women complain of pain along the sciatic nerve (a very large nerve that extends from the lower back down the back of your legs and all the way into your feet). Pain related to this nerve is called sciatica, and it can cause pain in the mid-buttock and frequently down the back of the leg, making it difficult to walk.

As an OB/GYN, I hear patients describe it as a shooting pain when they try to stand, often occurring in just one leg. If you’ve felt a similar sharp pain, it is best to talk to your doctor to know exactly what the cause is.

It can wax and wane throughout the pregnancy. It is very common, especially in the third trimester.

There is some debate as to the specifics of sciatica. Sciatica does not result from the baby pushing on the nerve. There are some changes that your body may experience that can give you pelvic pain and backache, but not sciatica.

Others claim sciatica is more closely related to pregnancy “woes”. The changes that the body goes through during pregnancy, such as weight gain, a shift on one’s center of gravity and hormonal changes, can cause sciatica during pregnancy.

Related: How to deal with nausea, vomiting and other pregnancy side effects

Treating Sciatica

Regardless of the relationship to pregnancy, if you are experiencing back pain or sciatica, you want fast relief.

Here are a few recommendations to get you feeling better.

  • Relax and take it easy — If you are feeling pain, take a break and relax. You don’t want to overdo it, especially towards the end of your pregnancy.
  • Focus on your posture — be sure to sit up straight and watch your shoulders curling inward.
  • Do simple exercises — for one, you can get on your knees and place your elbows on the ground, slowly tilting your pelvis to take pressure off the nerve. Bringing blood flow to your back will help it stay healthy. Also, consider swimming or other relaxing ways to move.

It does not cause any permanent damage, so you can continue walking even though it hurts. I also recommend the following:

  • Tylenol
  • Warm baths
  • Dry heat (like a hot pack)
  • Massage

If you’ve tried these recommendations but are still experiencing pain, it is best to talk to your doctor.

More pregnancy-related questions on your mind? Our experts have the answers.

About the Author

Sheila H. Bonds, MD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – College Station.

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