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Pregnancy Problems

Sciatica During Pregnancy

Here's the scoop on what causes sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy (you know, that nagging pain in your back — and maybe even down your leg) and how to deal.

What is sciatica during pregnancy?

It’s a nasty shooting pain down the back of your leg. It’s caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve, a nerve that runs from the lower back (you guessed it!) down the back of each leg.

Sciatica is most common in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, when your growing baby puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.

What are the signs of sciatica during pregnancy?

You’ll know this is different from other back pain or leg pain because it will feel sharp and shooting and run down your leg or from your butt to your leg.

Are there any tests for sciatica during pregnancy?

Sciatica during pregnancy is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms.

How common is sciatica during pregnancy?

It’s very common. Most pregnant women experience at least one episode of sciatic pain.

How did I get sciatica during pregnancy?

You didn’t do anything to “get sciatica,” except get pregnant — and grow baby!

How will sciatica affect my baby?

It won’t. Your baby will be just fine (see next page for treatments).

What’s the best way to treat sciatica during pregnancy?

A pregnancy girdle might sound uncomfortable, but it actually lifts your uterus a little bit and distributes the weight more evenly — and that could ease your sciatica. Taking an anti-inflammatory, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can help, too. So can getting off your feet and lying on the side of your body that doesn’t hurt. Some women find that heat or cold helps, so feel free to apply heating pads (but don’t go uncomfortably hot!) or cool compresses to the area to see what works best for you.

You might also want to consider seeing a chiropractor. “I think chiropractic can help a lot,” says Michelle Collins, CNM, an assistant professor of nurse-midwifery at Vanderbilt University.

What can I do to prevent sciatica during pregnancy?

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent sciatica. It’s just another side effect of pregnancy.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have sciatica?

“I've started having sciatic pain on my left side if I walk around a lot, over the last week or so. Which, as a nurse, I am prone to do, for 12 hours at a time. Usually the last 4 to 6 hours of my shift are awful, with sharp pains down my left leg every time I walk. I ended up staying home on Sunday because it still hurt when I woke up.”

“I had sciatica bad in my first pregnancy. I used good, supportive shoes; good posture; a heating pad; and pain meds. That's about it.”

“My sciatica started at 15 weeks with my first pregnancy — ouch! This time I've been doing yoga once a week and [it took longer for the pain to start] … I think yoga has helped me correct my posture and stretch more.”

Are there any other resources for sciatica?

American Pregnancy Association

Plus, more from The Bump:

Back Pain During Pregnancy

Tailbone Pain During Pregnancy

Is it safe to go to the chiropractor while pregnant?

By Jennifer L.W. Fink