Slight back pain, headaches, fatigue, and mood swings are things pregnant women experience, expect even. The facial changes like acne and a widening nose are shocking to some, but they are expected too. What women do not expect is sciatica.
Sciatica is a shooting pain radiating from your lower back through your hips, buttocks, and down the leg. The path that pain follows is called the sciatic nerve, and it is the longest and thickest nerve in the human body. This nerve originates from the lower part of the spine (lower back) and branches down to your hips, buttocks, and down each leg. Sciatica happens when a part of this nerve is irritated, compressed, pinched, or injured.
The pain ranges from a mild ache to sharp, burning pain. Sometimes it can feel like a jolt of electricity, and other times it’s simply a numb or tingly feeling down your leg. This pain worsens when you sit, stand, or lie down for too long. The pain can even be worsened by a cough or a sneeze.
What Causes Sciatica During Pregnancy?
Sciatica occurs in people who are overweight or have a physically exerting job, osteoporosis, and arthritis. However, it’s more common in pregnancy, with 1% of moms-to-be suffering extreme pain and numbness during the third trimester.
Contrary to popular belief, though the increase in weight (yours and the baby’s) is not the cause. Your body releases a hormone in the third trimester that loosens ligaments in readiness for childbirth. Those ligaments hold the vertebrae together and protect the disks, keeping the spine stable. When they loosen, the spine becomes unstable, and some disks can slip, a condition known as herniated disks.
A herniated disk can pinch the sciatic nerve and cause irritation and pain. This is the most common cause of sciatic pain, affecting 5% of the population. In addition, if your baby is heavy, the weight can add pressure and compression to an already unstable spine.
Thankfully, this issue usually goes away on its own after birth. The instability may not rectify immediately, but you will notice less pain and numbness with time. In the meantime, we have a few remedies that can get you some relief, albeit temporarily.
How to Relieve Sciatica
Again, sciatica has a wide range of discomfort, from excruciating pain to numbness. If the pain is too much, consider some pain medication for relief. Talk to your doctor about the pain, and they will advise on what medication is safe.
Along with pain killers, you should also;
Use heat and cold packs.
Heat relaxes sore and tight muscles. The muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve are tight because of the aggravation, and heat will do them some good. However, I find that a cold pack on your lower back or rear pelvis helps better with pain. Sciatica often feels like a burning sensation, and a cold pack will cool down that fire.
Rest is recommended during and after birth. That doesn’t mean you spend all day sitting or lying down. Moving around often takes the pressure off the pelvic area and lower back. Incorporate easy daily exercises like walking, Pilates, yoga, and swimming.
Maintain proper posture.
The way you sit and sleep can make the pain worse or better. First, try sitting upright (90 degrees) with your feet on the floor. If that is naturally too hard, use a donut pillow for sitting on in the office or at home. As for sleeping, lie on your side and use a pregnancy pillow to support your back and belly. A pillow between your knees will also help align and support your spine and take the pressure off.
Consider a massage
Alternative therapies like massage, spinal manipulation, and acupuncture have become popular in treating sciatica and back pain. These methods help with muscle spasms, flexibility, and relaxation.
Best Pregnancy Pillow for Sciatica Support
Since the right sleep posture is a big part of sciatica relief, it’s important to find a pregnancy pillow that works for you. But before that, you should ensure your sleeping surface is medium firm to firm. A firm surface provides support and spinal alignment, which helps in the fight against sciatica.
Now, the secret to comfortable sleep when you have sciatica is reclining. Propping up your back and elevating your legs takes the pressure off the nerve root in your mid-section and offers you enough relief to sleep.
I find that a full-body pillow is the most comfortable in this position. Place the top of the pillow under your shoulders instead of your head, and let the bottom go between your knees and under your belly. You can use a regular pillow to support your head.
Casper Sleep Hug Body Pillow
With this pillow, you can find plush support no matter how you use it. This pillow will help you get into and stay in a comfortable position, whether you are lying on your back, side, or stomach. There is nothing like the softness and comfort of its knitted cover. As it is fairly short, it will be great for you if you are petite or looking for something more compact.
I am well familiar with sciatica pain, I wrote about it in this post. Believe me mama you should really get a good support when it comes to sciatica, and pregnancy pillow can be you life saver. Go ahead and get yourself the best comfort out there, you deserve it!