Sciatica During & After Pregnancy

Instructor: Courtney Dohse
In this lesson, we will discuss the definition of sciatica and how it relates to pregnancy. We will also review the signs and symptoms of sciatica as well as discuss treatment.

Case Study

Katie is a 26-year-old female who is 36 weeks pregnant. She has been suffering from excruciating lower back pain on her left side that radiates down her leg. She stated that this started during her second trimester and has recently become worse, affecting her ability to walk. At her routine prenatal appointment, her obstetrician states that she believes that Katie is experiencing sciatica.

Definition, Signs and Symptoms

Sciatica is a term referring to the pain experienced along the path of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down the buttocks and down each leg. Sciatic pain can be mild or severe, but it usually affects the lower back, buttocks, hips and legs. It is usually experienced only on one side of the body and many people describe it as a pain that shoots down their leg. Others describe the pain as a burning or tingling feeling.

Image of the Sciatic Nerve

Pregnancy and Sciatica

Often, sciatic pain can be caused by a herniated disc, or a piece of bone pushing and putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. However, another common cause of sciatica is pregnancy. The sciatic nerve runs under the uterus, and therefore as the uterus grows, weight from the growing baby puts pressure on this nerve. This is the most common cause of sciatic pain during pregnancy. It can begin any time during pregnancy, but can be exacerbated in the third trimester, as the baby grows and moves down into the birthing position. When the baby engages into the woman's pelvis, his head puts increased pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica in the Postpartum Period

During the postpartum period, or the period of time following childbirth, sciatica may also be exacerbated by the added weight the woman is carrying after pregnancy. This usually subsides once the woman returns to her pre-pregnancy weight. Women who may have experienced injuries to their lower back during pregnancy or birth may experience sciatic pain from a herniated disc. Additionally, as the infant grows and gains weight, mothers tend to rest the baby on their hip to make the child easier to carry. While this may seem easier, the continued use of improper body mechanics, such as this, may result in a flare up of sciatic pain.

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