Oh, the hardships that pregnancy entails! I can feel you all and understand. If only men can experience this too. From conceiving, labor, delivery and up until motherhood, the things that your body will go through are never ending. Once you’ve decided to become a mother, it will be a lifetime sacrifice and commitment.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body continually develops to be able to adjust to the demands of a growing baby. As your pregnancy progresses, the fetus grows, and so does the uterus. Around the 2nd and 3rd stage of gestation, the baby is usually the size of a pumpkin or a watermelon. Imagine carrying an additional 5lbs inside your belly! In this extent, pressure along your hips and pelvis also increases. These are some of the culprits for your low back pains and feelings of numbness around the hips. Pain in this area and other pregnancy discomforts are normal throughout your pregnancy. Although, if sharp, shooting pain and numbness is felt, it is more likely because of a sciatic nerve pressure and irritation.
With this, pressure around the hips and even on the sciatic nerve may exist thus, the symptoms of pain. It is very uncommon among pregnant women to experience sciatica. In other studies, throbbing, low back pains that are severe are called “Sciatic-Like symptoms” rather than Sciatica itself. It is only considered Sciatica if it involves damage in the spinal disks that causes the compression of the sciatic nerve.
In general, it does not affect the mother and the baby’s health. However, if pain becomes severe, this might affect your daily activity. Reasons for developing sciatica may vary from muscle tension, muscle problems, and weight gain that puts pressure on the pelvis. Women who have a previous history of low back pains, osteoporosis, smoking and sudden weight gain may also put you at risk of eventually getting severe “Sciatic-like” symptoms or Sciatica. Another reason that has been associated with this condition during pregnancy is the increase of hormones. Relaxin is a hormone produced during pregnancy. In the late stages of gestation, this promotes relaxation in the pelvis and ligaments to prepare the baby’s passage. This according to studies, also add up to a possible increase of pressure to the sciatic nerve.
If you think you’re experiencing sciatic like symptoms, I suggest getting a consultation with your health practitioner. Sciatica is diagnosed through a series of physical examinations and imaging tests like an X-Ray or CT-Scan. Since pregnant women are not advised to undergo x-ray scans, this should be considered by the requesting physician. Referral to an orthopedic doctor and a physical therapist might also be suggested. It is important to understand and find the underlying cause of any condition to provide a patient the proper treatment.
There has been an inconclusive debate as to whether pregnancy is a primary cause to Sciatica. Pregnancy itself is not substantial enough to produce damage in the disks of the spine. However, the bigger your baby gets, or whatever position it may be in, it will not put an unbearable pressure to damage your spine.
Sciatica is not a serious condition that you need to worry about. This condition is usually prevented by proper positioning and posture, avoidance of prolonged standing and heavy lifting. Wearing maternity belts might help support your growing uterus as well. Though these can all help with prevention, this does not assure that sciatica will not occur. When it does, paracetamol is the drug of choice often prescribed for pain management. Women who suffer these “Sciatic Like” symptoms may also be prone to severe pain during labor. Positions during labor are also going to be limited depending on the severity of pain. You need not worry since there’s an option for a painless delivery like epidurals that are available.
If you’re a yoga loving mom to be, you’re going to enjoy some stretching exercises advised for patients with sciatica. As tested by pregnant women, doing stretching exercises will help reduce rigidity of the muscles on your legs and hips which can decrease the pressure on the sciatic nerve. If you’re feeling extra sporty, swimming exercises are also recommended. This will not only help with easing the pain, but can help you maintain your desired weight throughout your pregnancy. Chiropractic and physical therapy are also available to alleviate pain. Sometimes, back pains are severe that it affects the quality of our sleep. Other women suggest using firm mattresses, putting a pillow in between the legs and sleeping on the opposite side of where the pain is felt aids in alleviating pain.
Sciatica in pregnancy usually ends after childbirth. Although as a preventive measure for possible bone problems in the future, calcium supplements are advised. During breastfeeding, the demands of calcium in the body also increases to support the build-up and production of milk. When calcium levels are low in the body, risks of osteoporosis, and spine injuries also increases.
As every healthcare provider always says, early prevention is always essential!
Author: Bernice Tan RN
1. Yeomans, Steven G. “Types of Sciatic Nerve Pain”. 31 August 2015. https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/sciatica/types-sciatic-nerve-pain
2. “Pregnancy And Sciatic Nerve Pain”. 20 September 2017. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/sciatic-nerve-pain-during-pregnancy/
3. Mcgreal, Aoibhin. “5 Tips To Prevent or Reduce Sciatica During Pregnancy”. https://www.eumom.ie/pregnancy/health-and-well-being/5-tips-to-prevent-or-reduce-sciatica-during-pregnancy
4. Fink, Jennifer L.W., RN. “Sciatica During Pregnancy”. https://www.thebump.com/a/sciatica-during-pregnancy
5. Freutel, Natasha. 09 March 2016. “Sciatica During Pregnancy: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments”. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/sciatica-pain-stretches