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Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy 2023: Causes & 5 Tips to Get Relief


Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

sciatic nerve pain pregnancy can t walk

Most mothers-to-be make their health a top priority when expecting. Nutrition, gentle physical activity, and plenty of rest are all standard. Sometimes, though, even adhering to all of these great habits flawlessly might not be able to prevent you from experiencing some forms of pain and discomfort.

Your baby is constantly growing from the first to the third trimester. What happens when there’s not enough room to accommodate your child without jostling the rest of your abdominal cavity around? 

Sciatic nerve pain. Are you pregnant and can’t walk? That may be why. Here’s everything you need to know about debilitating nerve conditions and more than a few alternative therapies you can try all the way through the third trimester.

What is Sciatica?

Pregnancy sciatic pain is one of the most common challenges many people face, including expecting mothers. Sciatic nerve pain itself, however, isn’t actually tied exclusively to pregnancy at all. What does this severe pain signify in any person?
Sciatica symptoms are caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve[1], a long, large nerve that starts in your lower back and reaches far down into each leg. It’s the longest nerve in the human body, and its primary function is locomotion, enabling you to coordinate and move the muscles in your legs and feet. It also provides sensory sensitivity, which is why those experiencing sciatic nerve pain report such a strong, painful sensation.

Sciatica Symptoms During Pregnancy

Sciatica can become manifest on either the left side or right side; it may impact your gluteal muscles, your pelvic girdle, the right or left leg, the right or left knee, the left or right hip, the left or right ankle, and the hips, side, your abdomen, and even standing, walking, or sitting, in general. 

If you’ve experienced weight gain during pregnancy, lean forward unusually, or have difficulty engaging your abdominal muscles or an affected leg; you may need to handle sciatica first before finding relief. The most commonly-reported sciatic nerve pain symptoms include these telltale issues:

  • Shooting pain from the spinal cord, through the buttock, down through the pelvic floor, with extension into the right leg, the opposite side, or both
  • Incontinence is the inability to control one’s bladder
  • Numbness and tingling, also known as pins and needles
  • An unexplained burning sensation in your lower extremities
  • Muscle weakness, preventing you from supporting yourself on your feet for long periods
  • Pain when coughing or sneezing

Most women experience these symptoms as a result of the inflammation characteristic of sciatica. The good news is that this condition isn’t usually permanent. If your pain is extreme, however, we recommend reaching out to your physician immediately.

Causes of Sciatica During Pregnancy

Not all lower back pain is caused by the branches along where the sciatic nerve runs. In an ordinary case, the most common cause of sciatica is a herniated or bulging lumbar disc, adding extra pressure to the sciatic area and possibly impinging a lumbar or sacral nerve root. 

Can a growing baby impose itself on one’s sciatic nerve similarly? It may—loose joints and an expanding uterus may result in a part of your baby pressing on it, as with a shift in the baby’s position or the head applying pressure. Also, the sciatic nerve passes under or even through the piriformis muscle, which is part of the pelvic floor involved in moving the leg.  Any of these disruptions can evoke sciatic nerve pain in your lower spine.

Carrying new, extra weight, larger breasts, and even things like increased fluid retention may all aggravate the area around the sciatic nerve because its course is a tight fit. What are some of the symptoms of sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy? If you experience any of the following, the sciatic nerve may, in fact, be the problem.

5 Ways to Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy

Stretches, exercises, and other simple movements can all help relieve sciatica pain in pregnant women. As your pregnancy progresses, it’s natural to lean into homeopathic, medication-free means of sciatica pain relief.

A few of our most recommended ways to relieve nerve pain include

  1. Using a heating pad
  2. Prenatal massage
  3. Use a full-body pillow
  4. Try pregnancy-friendly stretches and exercises
  5. Physical therapy

Let’s discuss these simple home solutions—your body will thank you for giving any of these sciatica remedies a shot.

1. Use a Heating Pad

sciatic nerve pain pregnancy can t walk

Hot and cold packs can help you reduce inflammation, which might help cure your sciatica during pregnancy. Anything from a hot compress to warm showers will likely help a lot. While cold depresses painful nerve conduction, heat helps clear the inflammation. Either will help, but heat is probably better.

If you have leg pain, don’t hesitate to shift your heating pad away from your pelvis and belly. Follow your intuition; sometimes, a nice warm bath may be all you need. 

2. Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage[2] and other forms of manual therapy approved for pregnant women may be extremely relaxing, easing tension, pressure, and inflammation through a gentle session of chiropractic care. Overcontracting muscles to splint away from the pain can lead to spasms and trigger points, which massage can address.

3. Use a Full-Body Pillow

Can the way you sleep impact your experience with sciatica? It may—a firm mattress, body-contouring foam, and even things like a waterbed may all improve your sleep and help you reduce the pressure being applied to your sciatic nerve.

When in doubt, try adding more pillows, including switching up the one supporting your head. Sleep with a big pillow between your legs. A great night of sleep may be able to improve your circumstances enormously.

4. Stretches and Exercises

If there are any pregnancy-safe workouts, yoga routines, or other exercises you’ve seen that interest you, now is the time to try them. Sitting for prolonged periods may actually aggravate your sciatic nerve pain, which is why we recommend engaging in plenty of safe physical activity, except bicycling, which can cause sciatica and put you and your baby at risk from a fall.

A foam roller is a great way to increase blood circulation and relax muscles. Other excellent forms of natural pain relief include taking one or more relaxing walks daily, aqua therapy, or even simply tossing a tennis ball or a lacrosse ball around with your pooch in the backyard.

5. Physical Therapy

Surprisingly, according to many orthopedic surgeons, maintaining great posture is one of the best ways to soothe sciatica symptoms. Again, it’s to counteract the change in your center of gravity, which will strain and cramp muscles if you don’t adjust your posture.

Keep your back straight and perfectly erect, carrying more weight over your trunk than leaning forward. This improves your blood flow and may reduce the pressure on your sciatic nerve. Walk with your feet flat, leaning back into your heels instead of walking around on your tiptoes.

Sciatica During Pregnancy: The Bottom Line

Sciatica during pregnancy is relatively harmless to your baby’s development and delivery. With that being said, however, it’s also usually an excruciating, uncomfortable way to celebrate these nine joyful months.

If you worry that you’ve got sciatic nerve problems, you should always seek the advice of a medical professional before doing anything drastic. Avoid over-the-counter medications and other chemical forms of pain relief—sometimes, the solution is as simple as taking it easy. Soon, the problems should resolve themselves.

+ 2 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Davis, D., Maini, K. and Vasudevan, A. (2022). Sciatica. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507908/
  2. Hall, H., Cramer, H., Sundberg, T., Ward, L., Adams, J., Moore, C., Sibbritt, D. and Lauche, R. (2016). The effectiveness of complementary manual therapies for pregnancy-related back and pelvic pain. Medicine, [online] 95(38), p.e4723. doi:10.1097/md.0000000000004723.

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

Emma Garofalo is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of science, art, and all things culinary, few things excite her more than the opportunity to learn about something new." It is now in the sheet in the onboarding paperwork, apologies!!

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

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