Sciatica pain during pregnancy is common in women at a later stage during this time. From its symptoms to how to deal with it, here’s everything you need to know about it.

Published: 22 Feb 2024, 15:45 pm IST

Pregnancy is a magical journey filled with anticipation and excitement as a new life blossoms within. However, it is also the time when pregnant women undergo significant anatomical, physiological, and biochemical changes, necessary for the growth of the developing foetus. Did you know a woman gains 5-10 kilos of weight during normal pregnancy? The extra weight can lead to some musculoskeletal issues like sciatica nerve pain. Read on to learn how sciatic pain during pregnancy impacts the health of the mother and the baby.

What is sciatica?

When a woman’s body undergoes so many hormonal changes during pregnancy, it may lead to many musculoskeletal issues, including diastasis of the rectus abdominis, lower back pain, pelvic discomfort, carpal tunnel syndrome, and meralgia paresthetica. In some cases, the patient has back pain along with tingling pain which radiates to the posterior part of thigh and may extend below the knee. This pain is referred to as Sciatic nerve pain, also known as sciatica.
Sciatica describes a set of symptoms, including a radiating pain in the lower back. This kind of pain is usually brought on by an irritated, pinched, or inflamed sciatic nerve.

How to deal with sciatica pain during pregnancy?
Follow these easy ways to relieve tension in your back and neck. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the causes of sciatic nerve pain in pregnant women?

1. Herniated disc

One of the most common causes of sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy is a backbone spur or herniated disc. This condition in non-pregnant women may increase the risk of sciatica during pregnancy. A herniated disc in the lower back affects the spinal nerve roots. While it can lead to sciatica, it is a rare occurrence and may take place in one in 10,000 (less than 1%) pregnancies, as per a study published in the Journal of Medicine and Life.

2. Changes in the body

A pregnant woman’s body begins to loosen up to prepare itself to give birth. Loose ligaments and a developing uterus can put a strain on the sciatic nerve, causing shooting pain down the legs. Since the sciatic nerve is placed between the foetal head and pelvic brim, pregnant women may experience sciatica at a later stage during pregnancy.

3. Weight of the foetus

One of the other reasons why you may develop sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy is when your baby starts packing on the extra kilos. The increasing weight of the foetus and the developing uterus can add extra pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can lead to a problem.

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Also Read: Your lifestyle before pregnancy can impact your foetus’ health

How to identify sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy?

Typically, the pain starts in the gluteal area and spreads to the dorsum of the foot, the lateral side of the leg, and the back of the thigh. Sciatic nerve pain feels like a shooting pain, something similar to an electric shock. It can also lead to some discomfort and numbness. Sciatic nerve discomfort is extremely prevalent during pregnancy. The majority of expectant mother encounter sciatica at least once during their pregnancy.

Certain actions, such as coughing or sneezing, might exacerbate pain because they raise the intraperitoneal pressure. Activities that cause pain include sitting, bending over, standing for extended periods, and getting up from a seated position.

Posterior pelvic pain may resemble sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy

A common type of pregnancy-related pain is posterior pelvic pain (pelvic girdle pain), which may cause symptoms that are similar to sciatica. Posterior pelvic pain is common during pregnancy and may affect up to 76 percent of pregnant women

How to deal with sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy?

Sciatica during pregnancy can be reduced with several home remedies, including:

1. Use ice therapy

When sciatica is acute, ice therapy may help numb the pain and relieve symptoms immediately. Ice therapy decreases the pain signals, reduces blood flow, and helps relieve inflammation.

2. Heat therapy may help

For chronic or recurring sciatica, try heat therapy. Applying heat helps dilate blood vessels, improve blood and nutrient flow, and reduce muscular soreness, aiding in the healing process.

3. Go for short walks

Walking short distances may improve function and stability in the lower back. If you’ve never exercised before, start with 5 minutes of walking and work your way up to 10 minutes every week. Preventing overexertion and staying hydrated are crucial because they can result in difficulties.

4. Change your sleeping position

Lying on the opposite side of the pain may help release pressure on the sciatic nerve. Try to sleep in this posture to further alleviate the pain.

pregnant woman sleeping
Changing your sleeping position helps deal with sciatica pain during pregnancy. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

5. Perform pregnancy-safe stretches and exercises

Several stretching and strengthening exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy. Consult your physician or physical therapist about beginning a pregnancy-appropriate at-home fitness programme. Exercise supports and encourages good posture, which is crucial to preventing needless strain on your lower back, especially during pregnancy.

Also Read: 5 yoga stretches to help mommies-to-be get rid of severe backache

Things to keep in mind if you’re experiencing sciatica pain during pregnancy

  • Avoid standing for long periods to reduce discomfort. If you must stand for an extended period of time, try raising one foot and placing it on a box or footstool.
  • Do not lift heavy objects as it will put strain on your lower back, which will aggravate the pain and discomfort.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods. Make sure you are taking breaks by walking if you have a desk job.
  • Try to limit too much bending or twisting as it can also aggravate the problem.
  • Avoid doing all forms of back and core strengthening exercises. Perform only pregnancy-safe stretches and exercises. Talk to your physical therapist or doctor about starting a home-based exercise program appropriate for your stage of pregnancy.
  • You must discuss any new treatment, including oral or topical medication, with a doctor before use to reduce the risk of side effects to the growing foetus.

Make sure you are being extra careful during pregnancy for the sake of your health and your baby’s development.

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