by Patricia Hughes
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down to the feet. This nerve can become inflamed due to pressure of the growing baby during pregnancy. When this happens, severe pain results. Sciatica is one of the more painful complications of pregnancy.
If you have sciatic nerve pain, you will know it. Sciatic pain is unlike other lower back and leg pains you may get during your pregnancy. It is also very different from the leg cramps that may wake you in the night. Sciatic nerve pain is a sharp, shooting pain that goes from your lower back, down the back of the leg.
There are some things that contribute to sciatic nerve pain. If your job involves a lot of lifting or requires you to spend long periods of time sitting or standing, you may be at greater risk of developing sciatica in pregnancy. Also, if you have experienced sciatic nerve pain in a past pregnancy, you are more likely to have it again this time. For some women, excessive weight gain my also contribute to the problem. The extra weight results in more pressure on the nerve.
Mention the pain to your doctor at your next prenatal visit. There is no quick cure to the problem, but your doctor may recommend some treatments you can do at home to get some relief. Heat is one method doctors often recommend for dealing with the pain. You may want to try hot compresses or a hot water bottle. A warm bath may help too.
Your doctor may make some recommendations for changes in your sleep position. Some doctors recommend lying on the opposite side of the pain. For example, if the pain is in your right leg, lie on your left side. This may help reduce the pressure on the nerve, which will reduce the pain. Products such as the Belly Sling may help take the pressure off the nerve and relieve pain.
Some women find that prenatal yoga is helpful for reducing sciatic pain. The gentle stretching helps with the muscle tightness and inflammation associated with sciatica. You can find classes at your local yoga studio or ask at your doctor’s office or child birth class. While this won’t cure the pain, it can help make it less severe.
Ask your health care provider about the possibility of seeing a massage therapist, if the pain is frequent and severe. Massage is often helpful for reducing the tension and inflammation that result from sciatica. The surrounding muscles often become tight, which makes the nerve pain worse. Ask your doctor to refer you to a massage therapist who is experienced in working with pregnant women.
For very severe cases of sciatica, a few visits to a physical therapist may become necessary. The therapist will be able to show you some exercises to do at home to relieve the pain. These exercises will also strengthen your back muscles and help with lower back pain, which is another common pregnancy discomfort. Low back pain and sciatica often go hand in hand.
The pain goes away when the baby is born, for most women. A smaller number may experience sciatic pain for a few days, or weeks after the baby is born. When my second baby was born, the pain lasted about three weeks after the birth. If the pain persists, consult your doctor for further treatment options.
Patricia Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four. Patricia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. She has written extensively on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and breastfeeding. In addition, she has written about home décor and travel.