If you've ever experienced pain in your buttocks or legs, it may be that your baby is lying on your sciatic nerve.

As your baby grows bigger, you may notice that she's lying on your sciatic nerve. Ouch! This nerve is the largest and longest one in your body. About the width of your thumb, the nerve originates at the lower end of your spinal cord. It splits there to run down through your pelvic area, through each buttock and thigh, and along each leg to each foot. Sciatica is the name for any pain associated with the sciatic nerve.

Some people describe sciatica as an intense pain that radiates from one buttock down the back of that leg. Others feel it more in their hips. Descriptions of sciatica include tingling, burning, prickling, or stabbing pain that may be there all the time or come and go. In any case, sciatica can make you truly miserable, especially if you happen to be on a long road trip or working in an office where it's difficult to get up and move around.

Chances are your sciatica will lessen or go away completely after you have your baby. For some women the pain will subside during pregnancy as the baby grows and moves off the nerve.

Meanwhile, to treat the sciatica, ice the area several times a day as soon as the pain hits. After a couple of days, apply a hot-water bottle. Some women get relief from warm baths. It's also safe to take acetaminophen, and you can talk to your provider about acupuncture. Stretching exercises that focus on the lower back, buttock, and hamstring muscles can reduce discomfort, as can swimming or walking.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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