Pregnancy is a blessing that comes with many challenges, and sciatica is one of them. Almost 80% of pregnant women experience it.
Sciatica is the inflammation of your sciatic nerve. This is a long nerve that runs from your lower back down to the back of your leg and it is the largest nerve in your body.
Anything that affects this nerve makes pregnant women feel back pain when excess pressure is put on it.
Sciatica during pregnancy ranges from mild to severe and it feels like different things to different women. Some describe it as deep and soothing while others say it is a sharp and shooting pain.
Causes of Sciatica During Pregnancy
Sciatica is not peculiar to pregnancy only, both men and women experience this. So we will be covering the causes of sciatica in pregnancy.
Wear and tear
Outside pregnancy, this can cause sciatica. Wear and tear on your back can induce this. It is also caused by bulging discs that put pressure on your nerve.
Bulging disc rarely causes sciatica in pregnancy as it is just a temporary condition in pregnancy. The main causes of this condition in pregnancy are:
Adding weight can put extra pressure on your back and cause this pain. Pregnant women experience excess stress on their spine as the baby grows.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid weight gain by all means, it can be unhealthy for you and the baby. Follow your doctor’s advice for weight gain and if sciatica occurs, the natural remedies mentioned here will help you.
Changes in the center of gravity
Though simple, a shift in your center of gravity can cause this. As your growing baby changes your center of gravity and your breasts expand, extra pressure is put on the curve of your lower back (lordotic curve).
When this curve is stretched too much, it makes your quads and glutes tense and this, in turn, can pinch your sciatic nerve.
Pregnant women release a hormone called relaxin. The function of this hormone is to relax the ligaments in your pelvis thereby preparing your for birth.
This hormone can cause trouble in other areas of your body if the other muscles become too relaxed.
If your baby puts pressure on the sacroiliac joint (the area connecting the pelvis to the lower spine), it can trigger sciatica and other forms of back pain.
Tense muscles can press on your nerve and make you feel pain. The main culprit here is the piriformis muscle, a small located deep in your buttocks.
You can stretch this muscle using exercise. Walking, jogging, or other gentle exercises plus massage can also relieve the tension of the muscles.
Pressure on the nerve
Your growing baby can put pressure on your sciatic nerve due to gravity and their growing weight. The pain increases as your baby get bigger.
Edema is common during pregnancy. It occurs with swollen hands and feet. The retention of fluid can put pressure on your sciatic nerve.
As your womb expands, it might press down on the sciatic nerve in the lower part of your spine.
Your baby’s head can also rest directly on your sciatic nerve when he is trying to settle into normal birth position in the third trimester.
When Does Sciatica Occur in Pregnancy?
Sciatica is mainly caused by weight gain in pregnant women. So it is common during the third trimester of pregnancy when the baby continues to grow and your womb continues to expand.
Some pregnant women experience this constantly while it comes and go in others.
Symptoms of Sciatica During Pregnancy
- Pain on one or both sides of your legs or buttocks. Sometimes, the pain can run down from the lower back down to the foot but this usually occurs on one leg and not both.
- Pins and needles or numbness
- A sharp and shooting pain
- A burning sensation down the leg
- Difficulty sitting down for long periods of time or difficulty walking
- Difficulty lowering yourself to sit down on a low seat
- Pain when rolling over in bed at night
- Leg pain
- Poor bladder control
- Weakness of the low back or legs
- Pain that gets worse with coughing, sneezing, or moving
- A burning sensation in the lower extremities
How Long Does Sciatica During Pregnancy Lasts?
Well, this depends on the individual experiencing it. Some women notice relief as the baby starts growing and changes position. It can also flare up and then calm down.
The severity of this condition and how often it occurs depends on the amount of pressure placed on the nerve.
The pain will reduce or disappear completely within a few months of childbirth after you’ve shed the weight or reduced the fluid pressing on the nerve.
Natural Ways To Relieve Sciatica During Pregnancy
Here are some great home remedies to relieve this condition. Please make sure you do all these in moderation and you should be supervised by your doctor.
This is the best way to ease sciatica caused by muscle tensions. The best exercises for this are stretches. The piriformis muscle is prone to tightening.
Do stretches and soothe your sciatic nerve. Stretches you can try are the table stretch, the hamstring and glute foam roller, hip flexor stretch, and the pigeon pose.
Aside from stretching, you can also add gentle exercises to your regimen. This will reduce inflammation and promote circulation of blood. It relieves pains and keeps your muscles limber.
Swimming is another great prenatal exercise because it removes pressure from your joints. This particular exercise is helpful for sciatica caused by the pressure of an expanding uterus.
Brisk walking is also another gentle exercise for pregnant women. You can also do some pelvic tilts with kegels. They will reduce inflammation and strengthen your core muscles.
Increase your intake of magnesium
Magnesium is called the “relaxation mineral” because it eases pains, stress, and tensions. It also reduces inflammation and promote the regeneration of the sciatic nerve.
Rich sources of magnesium are dark green leafy vegetables, black beans, pumpkin, avocados, etc. Magnesium citrate is available as supplements or capsules and they are highly absorbable.
You can also spray magnesium oil on the affected part for quick relief.
This is more than relaxing, it also eases sciatic and other types of pains. These massages loosen tight and tensed muscles.
This therapy relieves pain by releasing tense and contracted muscles. Myofascial release massage can even release the piriformis muscle pinching your sciatic nerve.
You can also make use of sports balls or foam rollers to release your muscles at home. They are techniques you can try at home if you don’t have access to a therapist.
This type of Chinese Traditional Medicine has been used to relieve sciatica, back pain, and other conditions for thousands of years.
Many pregnant women swear by acupuncture and many studies are supporting the benefits of acupuncture in pains, pregnancy, and other medical conditions.
Cold and warm compress
Cold and hot therapy relieves not only the symptoms of sciatica but other pains and it also improves the circulation of blood. To make it more effective, you have to alternate the two.
The cold temperature will reduce inflammation while the hot temperature will sooth sore or tight muscles.
Try this when next you have a flare up:
- Place an ice pack on the affected place for 20 minutes. Do this 2 to 3 times daily. Wrap to ice pack in a towel to avoid hurting your skin.
- Use warm compress inbetween cold compresses. Don’t make the warmth higher than 100 degrees so the baby won’t be affected. Use the hot compress for less than 10 minutes at a time.
Meet a Chiropractor
Chiropractic care relieves sciatic pain and is also safe during pregnancy. You need to meet a well-trained and certified chiropractor.
Prolonged sitting or standing can cause flare-ups. So you have to look for ways to engage yourself during the day but remember to rest inbetween though.
If you sit for a long time at work, take a few minutes and walk around your office. Do this every hour. You can also work sitting on an exercise ball.
If you stand at work, sit during breaks. You can also rest one foot at a time by placing one foot on a stool.
When relaxing at home, sit with your feet flat on the floor. If you have pain on one side, cross the ankle of the affected leg over the other knee.
Practice safe sleep
Most pregnant women experience sciatica pain on one side of their bodies. So if you don’t want to aggravate the symptoms, sleep on the side that is not paining you.
Also, sleep with a pillow inbetween your leg. This will help to balance the alignment in your pelvis and also relieve the pressure.
Try and avoid sleeping on your back. If your left-hand side is paining you, sleep on your right-hand side.
Sleep on a firm mattress with plenty of back support.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
This will help to reduce the overall inflammation in your body. It will calm your sciatic nerve and also the surrounding muscles. Anti-inflammatory foods are green leafy vegetables, turmeric, nuts, and seeds, and oily fish.
Avoid refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, sweetened beverages, fried foods, and red meat. They are acidic and they worsen inflammation.
There are quality pregnancy-safe ointments available in health shops or online.
They are helpful in relieving swelling, muscle aches, and joint pains. One of the best you can try is Arnica ointment.
Apply the oil to the affected region once or twice daily. Gently massage this into your skin. You can also apply this oil to a warm compress and massage gently on your skin.
Please don’t use Arnica on broken skin.
Potassium deficiency can cause sciatica. You need to increase your intake of potassium-rich foods because a deficiency of this can cause cramps.
Pregnant women need 4700mg of potassium. Foods rich in potassium are apricots, ginger roots, lentils, raisins, prunes, and squash.
This takes the weight off your belly and relieves the pressure on your sciatic nerve and back. You will feel instant relief and you can be able to walk.
Drink plenty water
You need 1 to 2 liters of water on a daily basis to help your metabolism and keep your body hydrated and balanced.
This will prevent constipation and other health problems that can lead to sciatica.
When To See A Doctor?
Sciatica can be managed at home but if it is not responding to all the treatment you are doing, you should see a doctor ASAP. See a doctor if you notice that:
- The pain is increasing and it is severe
- The pain is interfering with your daily activity
- Your symptoms persist for more than a few months after giving birth to your baby.
Sciatica is common during pregnancy and there are many ways you can relieve this at home. We hope this post help you.
Regular exercise, the right diet, an active lifestyle, and the right posture can prevent this from happening in the first place. Not all women experience this but a majority do.
Did you experience sciatica during pregnancy? Please share with us how you found relief.