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We all dream of the perfect pregnancy in which we bloom beautifully and exude radiant calm but unfortunately a significant number of mums-to-be spend the second and third trimester with an excruciating pain in their backside due to horrible sciatica!
The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back through your bottom to your legs and during pregnancy it can be trapped or damaged from the strain of the baby’s weight on your back or from direct pressure from the baby on the nerve.
The excruciating pain can extend down your legs and can also involve very painful pins and needles.
Coping with Sciatica
1. Preventing Sciatica
Sciatica isn’t limited to pregnancy but you are much more at risk of getting it when pregnant so there are some things it is worth every mum-to-be doing to strengthen their back and reduce pressure on the Sciatic nerve:
- Keep an eye on posture – bottom in, shoulders back! – don’t slump forward
- Ditch your heels and get your flats on as soon as you’re pregnant
- Enjoy swimming which strengthens the back – back stroke is better than breast
- Take pregnancy pilates or yoga classes appropriate to stage of pregnancy
- Watch your weight – putting on a lot of weight will increase pressure on back
- Take a short walk everyday but watch your posture whilst you walk
2. Managing Sciatica
Once you have had an episode of Sciatica there are some things you can do that may give some relief and help prevent the Sciatica getting worse. Different things will work better for different people and what does and doesn’t help may change – the key is NOT to do anything that makes the pain worse:
- A pregnancy specialist chiropractor or osteopath can relieve pressure on nerve
- Get regular massage from a sciatica in pregnancy expert
- Walk for exercise but only on level ground in flat shoes & watch your posture!
- Support your bump with a pregnancy support belt
- Don’t sit straight up – Roll out of bed legs first to standing rather than sitting up
- Get a firm mattress – If able to, get a really firm mattress or even sleep on floor
- Avoid standing for too long – take regular breaks if have to stand for job
- If working at a desk, support your feet with a foot stool
- “Bend zee knees” rather than straight over
- Even better get help with bending whether bathing a child or tying your laces!
- Sleep with pillow between knees and as bump grows put under your belly
- Try Williams Exercises to strengthen lower back to prevent pain but get advice
- Acupuncture – some mums swear by & may be able to get doctor referral
- Pregnancy pilates or yoga – Some mums say it helps but others that it makes it worse, key is to do it under supervision from someone trained in appropriate exercises for pregnancy and back pain
3. Handling Sciatica Pain
At the height of a Sciatica attack, the pain may be extreme and it may not be possible to get any effective relief but some of the following may help:
- Put your bum in the air – literally get on all fours & stick your bottom up
- Ask doctor for appropriate pain relief for stage of pregnancy
- Alternate heat & cold packs – apply hot wet cloth & then switch to ice pack
- Delegate everything! – don’t try to battle on if you’re in pain and do ask for help
- Bed rest – when all else fails take yourself to bed and don’t feel guilty about it
Sciatica is common during pregnancy but that doesn’t mean that you should just grin – or rather grimace – and bear it! Do talk to your midwife and your doctor and do push for pain relief, provision of for example a support belt and access to an osteopath or chiropractor, specialist massage and acupuncture.
Unfortunately, as with so many pregnancy conditions you have to be prepared to fight your corner to get the help you need! And if it is getting worse or you experience additional symptoms such as fever, loss of feeling in your legs or bum, inability to stand or incontinence, keep going back to your doctor.