One of the most common discomforts that can affect pregnant women is a pain in the lower back that extends to the hip and legs, preventing the woman from moving comfortably: sciatica in pregnancy. Why is it produced? Is it possible to alleviate it? We tell you everything below.
The uterus is the part of the body that undergoes the most significant changes during pregnancy, increasing to 20 times its size as the baby grows. This increase in size causes the increasingly bulky uterus to exert more pressure around it. When it reaches the sciatic nerve, there is pain in the lower back, buttocks, hips and legs.
The sciatic nerve (also called sciatic nerve) is the thickest nerve in the body, terminated by the sacral plexus, which is distributed in the posterior thigh muscles, in the leg muscles and in the skin of the leg and the foot. The term “sciatica” refers to pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the leg, symptom of a health problem that in the case of the pregnant woman is, as we have seen, the pressure on the sciatic nerve (it can also be a result of an injury).
According to research in this regard, sciatica appears in almost 50% of pregnant women and occurs more frequently in younger women, those who have suffered or suffer from back pain, those who sleep a few hours and those who suffer depression during this stage.
Symptoms of sciatica
Sciatic pain can vary widely as we have just mentioned. You may feel something like a slight tingling, a stinging, a dull ache, or a burning sensation. In some cases, the pain is so intense that it makes it impossible for the person to move. It usually happens more frequently on one side (it happened to me on the right side).
Some women have severe pain in one part of the leg or hip and elsewhere there is numbness. Both pain and numbness could also spread to the back of the calf or on the sole of the foot. The lower back pain is not as severe as when the pain extends to the leg and makes it difficult to walk.
When sciatica affects the leg, it may feel weak and even sometimes the foot is immobilized by walking if the pain is intense and prevents the woman from moving normally, in the most severe and difficult to cope.
The evolution of pain is also variable, it can start to be mild and get worse for several reasons: after standing or sitting, at night, making a sudden movement such as coughing, laughing, bending the body backwards or having a bad posture, if you walk a lot…
If the symptoms of sciatica continue to get worse instead of better, they get worse suddenly or they are associated with intense headaches, fever, weakness, pain in both legs… you should consult your doctor immediately.
How to relieve sciatica in pregnancy?
Resting and applying heat on the back area can relieve the pain of sciatica, as well as gentle pelvic swing exercises that are performed standing upright (for the second half of pregnancy). Exercises that improve the flexibility of the spine are also recommended.
The practice of other exercises such as swimming, yoga or pilates can also relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Many times the realization of these tips will calm the pain caused by sciatica in pregnancy, other times it will be the simple change of position of the baby in the womb that returns us well-being.
However, after an attack of sciatica it is better to suspend the exercise momentarily until slowly starting moderate physical activities. Bed rest, in principle, is not recommended and you should avoid lifting heavy objects and twisting your back for a few weeks after the pain has begun.
Sometimes, if the symptoms are very serious, the doctor recommends rest of the future mother for a few days, along with the performance of specific exercises and perhaps some appropriate analgesic. There are complementary treatments (chiropractic, therapeutic massage…) that can also be beneficial if they are performed professionally.
In the warm seasons the pain usually decreases, in my case the arrival of good weather was a blessing and the pain of sciatica in pregnancy (which fortunately was quite mild) disappeared.
To prevent sciatica in pregnancy remember the recommendations of postural hygiene, trying that the column carries the lightest possible weight, keeping the back straight assiduously, sleeping sideways, avoiding sedentary lifestyle and excessive weight gain…
Like most discomforts resulting from pregnancy, if it has not been possible to fight before (it can be suffered by one in two pregnant women), sciatica disappears after childbirth. Meanwhile, if you are making your normal life impossible, go to the doctor for advice on the best way to overcome this uncomfortable pain.