Sciatica During Pregnancy: What Parents Need to Know

Hip pain or numbness in the legs can happen as your baby grows during pregnancy. Find out what causes it and how to feel better.

pregnant woman with back pain sitting on bed
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If you're experiencing pain in your buttocks or legs, your baby might be lying on your sciatic nerve. This condition, called sciatica, is relatively common while expecting, and it's usually not cause for concern. Here's what you need to know about sciatica during pregnancy, with tips for relieving the pain.

What Causes Sciatica in Pregnancy?

During the second and third trimester, your baby's head may rest heavily on the sciatic nerve, which is the largest and longest nerve in your body. About the width of a thumb, it starts in the lower part of the spinal canal then splits to run down through your pelvic area, through each buttock and thigh, and along each leg to your feet.

When your baby presses on the sciatic nerve, you might experience pain, numbness, and/or tingling (called sciatica). It usually begins deep in the buttocks and radiates down the back of your legs.

What Does Sciatica Pain Feel Like?

Some people describe sciatica as an intense pain that radiates from one buttock down the back of that leg. Other women have more generalized hip pain, probably due to the softening and shifting of pelvic bones and the pressure of the heavier uterus. Descriptions of sciatica include tingling, burning, prickling, or stabbing pain that may be present all the time or come and go.

Sciatica pain can be so intense at times that it incapacitates you. It can also make sleeping on your side especially difficult—although this is usually the preferred sleep position during pregnancy. If that's the case, sleep in whatever position makes you comfortable.

How to Ease Sciatica Pain

As the baby shifts position, sciatica will disappear as quickly as it came. In the meantime, try using a heating pad or sitting in a warm tub. You can also ice the area several times a day as soon as the pain hits. Stretching exercises that focus on the lower back, buttock, and hamstring muscles can reduce discomfort—as can swimming or walking.

Should I See a Doctor?

Sciatica is usually not a cause for concern, though you should tell your healthcare provider about it during your next prenatal visit. For persistent pain, your practitioner may recommend acetaminophen.

Updated by Nicole Harris
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