All You Need To Know About Sciatica During Pregnancy

Nov 21, 2022

Pregnancy means a lot of firsts — like feeling the incredible first flutter of your baby moving. But constant back pain? Although this is something you might not have expected, back pain, often leading to sciatica during pregnancy, is pretty common. You are after all carrying so much extra weight.

Your body experiences many physical and hormonal changes during the entire pregnancy period. With each passing day, your baby grows, and your body has to adjust. Unfortunately, these changes also sometimes lead to unfamiliar aches and pains. While some mothers-to-be may experience dull, throbbing aches in the middle of the back, others may suffer from sciatica during pregnancy.

Sciatica during pregnancy is a common issue for women. Also called lumbar radiculopathy, sciatica during pregnancy is a painful but, fortunately, a temporary condition. Those who suffer from this often describe it as a "radiating pain" that travels from the sciatic nerve to the back of the thigh.

Symptoms of Sciatic During Pregnancy

Aches and pains that result from sciatica during pregnancy range from mild to excruciating. A tingling sensation in one part of your body and pain in another area is one of the common symptoms. Other symptoms include: 

  • Feeling a burning sensation in the lower back and buttocks 
  • Feeling pain that travels from your pelvis to the back of your leg 
  • Feeling a sudden jolt of pain
  • Feeling pain that worsens when you cough, sneeze or sit for long periods
  • Feeling numbness, tingling in one leg or foot, or muscle weakness

What Causes Sciatica During Pregnancy?

Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is pinched because of the compression of the spine in some way. Typically, this is due to a herniated disk or an overgrowth of bone, which causes inflammation, numbness, and pain.

Pregnant women often experience spinal compression, which affects the sciatic nerve. There are several reasons why they might go through this. One of them is linked to the hormone released during pregnancy - Relaxin. Naturally, your body produces this hormone to relax your ligaments and prepare your pelvis for childbirth. However, loose ligaments and a growing uterus often shift the body's center of gravity and pinch the sciatic nerve. This leads to shooting pains down the legs.

Another cause of sciatica during pregnancy is the growing baby that puts additional weight on your unstable joints and muscles. Sometimes, the baby's position may also cause sciatic nerve compression.

This pain often comes and goes in most cases, but it can be constant for some women. While it may be uncomfortable for the mother-to-be, this compression and pain don't harm the baby.

pregnant woman sitting in bed with her hand on belly

What To Do If You're Suffering From Sciatica During Pregnancy?

To heal sciatica, time and rest are required. In this situation, discomfort is common, but severe pain is not. You can take certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help you curb the excruciating pain. However, to ensure that these medications don't harm your baby, it is essential to consult your doctor beforehand. Here are some other simple home remedies that you can try to help ease constant body aches:

Use a heating pad, cold pack, or take a hot shower. 

The heat helps to relax tight muscles, often aggravated by carrying extra weight. Sometimes, using a cold pack on your lower back and rear pelvis can also help ease the pain.

Keep moving.

It is natural to curl up into a ball when you're going through such severe pain. However, you must maintain some gentle movement in your daily routine. This is helpful in the long run. A simple walk, yoga session, slight bending or twisting, or low-impact activities can help you soothe your muscles and mind.

Pay attention to the pain.

It is vital to notice small things and any activities that irritate your sciatic nerve. It is suggested to avoid heavy lifting and take frequent breaks on your job.

Get a massage.

Evidence suggests that prenatal massage not only reduces stress, improves blood circulation, and regulates hormones but also helps you lower sciatic nerve pain.

See a physical therapist.

If you find your sciatic nerve pain very disturbing and hindering your normal day activities, see a professional physical therapist who can provide you with stretches and strength-building exercises. 

Sleep on your side.

You should also avoid sleeping on the side of your body that hurts. You can use a full-body pillow to support your hips and legs. This will help you take the pressure off the compressed nerve. 

When Should You See A Doctor For Sciatica During Pregnancy?

If rest, icing or other self-care methods are not improving your sciatic nerve pain condition after a week, or you are experiencing severe numbness, tingling or problems in urinating, it is recommended to see a spine surgeon to discuss your symptoms as soon as possible. The spine surgeon will first perform a physical examination to observe any indication of injury. Then to confirm if there is a lumbar nerve root compression, he/she might perform X-rays and MRI scans.

How Will Sciatica Be Treated?

If no nonsurgical treatments, including medications or physical therapy, worked, you're experiencing persistent disabling sciatica, and your condition is causing cauda equina syndrome (which includes symptoms such as bladder dysfunction, severe numbness in the buttocks, or incontinence), a spinal decompression surgery may be required.

Spinal decompression surgery is an umbrella term that includes various surgical procedures that remove any disc herniation or stenosis to ease back and leg pain. The surgery depends on which nerve roots are affected. These decompression surgeries include:

  • Laminectomy
  • Laminoplasty
  • Laminotomy
  • Lumbar microdiscectomy

Get Spinal Decompression Surgery

If you have been experiencing excruciating back pain and looking for surgical treatment, Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery is here to help. We have been among the best spine care facilities treating patients with spine problems for more than ten years. Dr. Moksha is the lead neurosurgeon here who has been awarded as the best neurosurgeon in Los Angeles by for three consecutive years. You can schedule an appointment with her by filling out the contact form or calling (213)-369 4583.

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