Side Effects of Pregnancy On You

Sciatica During Pregnancy

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The sciatic nerve starts at your lower back, runs down the back of your legs and then branches out at your feet. This nerve is responsible for allowing movement to the muscles in your legs and allowing you to feel sensations. However, if pressure from your back is applied to the sciatic nerve it can be very painful, this condition is called sciatica.

In some cases you will have a pins and needles sensation in your leg and you may also suffer from back pain if the nerve is affected. This article hopes to provide you with a guide to dealing with sciatica during pregnancy.

Why would I get sciatica during pregnancy?

Sciatica during pregnancy can often be mistaken for pelvic girdle pain as most aches and pain during pregnancy are around the back or pelvis, not the sciatic nerve. However, during pregnancy the weight of your growing baby can press against the sciatic nerve causing sciatica.

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

The pain associated with sciatica often only affects one side of the body. It can feel like a burning pain shooting either across your back, into your thigh or down your leg and into your foot. You may experience a localised pain, or pain all over. It is often described as a shooting pain or like a hot knife. Other symptoms include tingling sensations like pins and needles or a numb feeling in your back, legs or feet.

How can it be treated?

In the first instance speak to your doctor or midwife who may be able to refer you to a specialist such as a musculoskeletal physiotherapist for manipulation.

You will be given exercises to carry out which will help to strengthen the back, tummy and pelvic floor muscles. In some cases you will be provided with a support belt to ease your spine from the weight of your growing bump.

If the function of the sciatic nerve is affected, you may be sent for an MRI scan (which is safe during pregnancy) though this isn't necessary. It is unlikely that you will be offered drugs to control the pain during pregnancy though post-birth you may be offered an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen. The pain usually only lasts between 6 and 12 weeks. Understandably, this is a long time for anyone when in pain.

What can I do?

  • Using heat and cold treatments can be a good form of pain relief which is also safe during pregnancy. Apply a heat/ice pack or patch to the affected area for 10 minutes.
  • Try different types of shoes. Some women find flat shoes ease the pain, whereas others prefer a slight heel.
  • Be mindful of your posture and keep your spine slightly arched. When in a seated position place a cushion or rolled up towel in the small of your back to support the spine.
  • Where possible do not lift heavy objects. If you must lift something, ensure you bend your knees not your back.
  • If you feel pain, stop what you are doing. Your body is telling you it's had enough.
  • Keep moving. Sitting down for long periods of time is not good for sciatica.
  • Take the weight off your bump in bed using pillows or cushions for support.

Giving birth with sciatica

There are a limited number of positions which will be comfortable for you to give birth in if you are suffering from sciatica, although a physiotherapist will be able to advise you. A birthing pool is often advised as the water can support you during the labour.

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This internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.