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Jennifer L.W. Fink
Registered Nurse

Sciatica During Pregnancy

Here's the scoop on what causes sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy and how to deal.

What is sciatica during pregnancy?

It’s a nasty shooting pain that you feel in your back and maybe even 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 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 will 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 the symptoms you'll describe to your doctor.

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! There's nothing you could have done differently.

How will sciatica affect my baby?

It won’t, so not to worry. Baby will be just fine.

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 help 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 or cool compresses to the area to see what works best for you. Just make sure if you opt for heat you don't leave it on for extended periods and you don't let it get too hot. Here's why.

You might also want to consider seeing a chiropractor. “I think chiropractic treatment 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 one of those fun side effects of pregnancy.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have sciatica?

“I had sciatica bad in my first pregnancy. I wore good, supportive shoes, tried to practice good posture, used a heating pad and took 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 I noticed it took longer for the pain to start. I think yoga has helped me correct my posture and stretch more.”

Plus, more from The Bump:

8 pregnancy symptoms you'll actually like

Tailbone pain during pregnancy

Leg pain during pregnancy