Pregnancy takes a toll on your body, and sciatica pain is just one of many symptoms you may experience throughout your pregnancy. Whether or not you are currently experiencing it, you'll be doing yourself a favor by learning how to relieve sciatica pain during pregnancy.
Like many aspects of pregnancy, sciatic pain is no fun to deal with. We'll go through together what causes sciatic pain, the symptoms you may encounter, and our best tips for relieving sciatica at home.
What is Sciatic Pain During Pregnancy?
To fully understand sciatica and sciatic pain during pregnancy, we first need to talk about the sciatic nerve. This nerve is the largest one in your body, and it runs on both sides of your body from underneath your uterus down through your legs.
When this nerve is pinched or compromised, it can result in pain from a dull aching to shooting to burning or even numbness, often starting in your lower back and working its way down the back of your leg.
If you've experienced butt pain during pregnancy or pain down your legs, it may be sciatica.
Symptoms of Sciatica Pain
So, when does sciatica in pregnancy start? Sciatic pain can occur at any stage of your pregnancy. If you experience sciatic pain in early pregnancy, it may increase as your pregnancy progresses. As we mentioned, sciatica is caused by irritation to the sciatic nerve and can range in intensity.
Below are some common symptoms you may feel, usually experienced on one side of the body only.
- Pain along the sciatic nerve (lower back, bottom, and back of the leg)
- Burning sensation along the back of your leg
- Numbness in the lower back or leg
- Sore or painful buttocks during pregnancy
Causes of Sciatica Pain During Pregnancy
Your body is undergoing a tremendous physical change during pregnancy that can trigger irritation and discomfort to the sciatic nerve. The growing belly and added weight to your frame can put pressure on the sciatica nerve, especially if you have sudden and fast weight gain or if your fetus is in a certain position.
During your pregnancy, your body gradually prepares your pelvis for childbirth which can shift your center of gravity and add pressure to the nerve.
Even constipation can cause sciatica by pinching that nerve if it's for a prolonged period of time.
How to Prevent Sciatic Pain
While sciatic pain is not entirely preventable, there are certain things you can do to help lessen your chances of developing sciatic pain. Even if you experience sciatica after pregnancy, the tips below still apply.
- Maintain regular movement; avoid extended periods of sitting or standing
- Aim for steady weight gain throughout your pregnancy, as sharp increases in weight can cause added pressure to your sciatic nerve
- Avoid lifting heavy objects, which can irritate your sciatic nerve
When to Contact a Doctor
Keep your doctor informed at each and every routine visit. Pay attention to your pain; if it's severe enough to impact your daily life, it's time to consult your doctor. Pregnancy symptoms can be hard to diagnose.
Numbness in the legs in pregnancy, for example, can be a symptom of various things, so it's best to keep an open conversation with your doctor about any and all symptoms you experience.
Put your pregnancy worries, aches, and to-do list aside, and check out our list of fun things to do before you're due.
11 Tips to Sleep With Sciatica Pain
Getting the sleep you need is extra important when you’re expecting, but for some, dealing with sciatica pain during the night is excruciating. Lying down can cause added pressure to the sciatic nerve, especially if you normally sleep on a softer mattress. If you’re wondering how to sleep with lower back pain and sciatica, we’ve got you covered.
Although sciatica is frustrating and painful, in most cases there are some simple remedies that you can try at home to ease your pain. Most center around getting you comfortable and ready for sleep and relieving the pressure on the sciatic nerve. We’ve gathered some tips for sleeping with sciatica pain, including sleeping with sciatica dos and don’ts and the best sleeping position for sciatica.
Use a Pregnancy Pillow
You’ve probably gathered by now that using a pregnancy pillow is one of our favorite tips for dealing with sciatica and pain in the tailbone during pregnancy. Pregnancy pillows, especially our full-body side sleeper pillow, can really help eliminate some of the tension and pressure in your hips and legs by aligning your pelvis. You’ll like it so much that it might just become a staple in your sleep routine even post-pregnancy!
Pregnancy pillows are consistently at the top of maternity must-have lists for good reason. For sciatic nerve pain relief at night especially, the best sleep position is on the side that doesn’t have pain. Use the pregnancy pillow between your legs to support your hips and relieve some of that pressure you are feeling, or wherever it feels most comfortable for you. Pregnancy pillows are super versatile; there’s no right or wrong way to use them!
Get a Firm Mattress
Sleeping on a soft and fluffy mattress can really amplify some of the sciatic pain because of the lack of support provided. Your spine and the rest of your body sink into soft mattresses, causing the spine to bend more than it would on a firm mattress, accentuating the pressure on the sciatic nerve. By sleeping on a firm mattress, your entire body is more supported and less likely to irritate your sciatic nerve.
Use A Heating Pad
You might be wondering if you can use a heating pad while pregnant, and while we do recommend consulting with your doctor, heating pads on the low setting are generally safe to use.
You could also try a hot shower or a warm compress if you don't have a heating pad available. Place the heating pad at the source of pain to relax tightness and relieve pain.
Sleep on the Side Without Pain
When it comes to sleeping positions for hip pain while pregnant or sciatic nerve pain, we recommend sleeping on the side of your body that is not experiencing the pain. If you’re wondering about left-sided sciatica, the best sleeping position for left-sided sciatica will still be on your right side.
You may have heard that sleeping on your left side while pregnant is the most safe, but when it comes to sciatica your comfort and quality of sleep are very important. Sleeping on the non-hurting side will allow your body to relax and release the tension on the side with pain.
Haven't told your family the news yet? Don't fret! We've got 48 fun and creative pregnancy announcement ideas for your family.
Elevate Your Knees
Arguably the best sleep position for sciatica pain is flat on your back with your knees elevated. This is especially true if you experience pain in your hips and hip flexors. How to relieve hip pain during pregnancy while sleeping involves evenly distributing your weight and pressure across your back instead of on one side of the body. This is another great opportunity to utilize a pregnancy pillow under your knees, which helps further relax your hips and distribute your weight.
Use a Cold Compress
Cold therapy can provide immediate relief for sciatica pain, especially for those sudden flare-ups that just won’t seem to pass. Try applying an ice pack to the area you are experiencing pain, rotating as needed with other areas.
The targeted cold will help reduce swelling and inflammation, and also numb the area for temporary pain relief. If a cold compress just isn’t doing the trick, you can experiment with applying a hot pad after the cold compress to boost blood supply, relax those muscles, and promote healing in the affected area.
Pelvic Floor or Kegel Exercises
Kegels and other pelvic floor exercises are great sciatica pregnancy stretches because they strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, helping to reduce pain and other fun pregnancy symptoms like incontinence.
For kegel exercises, think about the muscles you use to start and stop the flow of urine. Start by flexing those muscles and holding for a few seconds, then slowly release and repeat. The nice thing about pelvic floor exercises is that you can do them throughout the day, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes at a time!
If you are interested in additional support and information, we highly recommend consulting with a pelvic floor physical therapist or specialist. They will be able to give you specific exercises that are unique to your body and needs to support preparing for labor, and postpartum recovery.
Maintain Good Posture and Avoid Frequent Sitting
Being mindful of your posture throughout the day can significantly impact the presence and severity of sciatic pain. Keeping your back upright with your shoulders back and down can help relieve sciatic pressure and pain.
If you work at a desk all day, make sure your desk setup is ergonomically friendly, and break up your day by taking frequent breaks to get up and walk around. If how to sit with sciatica is an issue, try out some standing stretches throughout your day.
One of the best proactive ways to reduce sciatica pain during pregnancy is to make a habit of stretching frequently. Start off the morning with a table stretch to elongate the muscles of the back, hips, and backs of your legs.
All you need to do is stand facing a table with feet hip-distance apart and hands on the table, and slowly bend at the hips until your back is at a 90-degree angle with your legs. Shift your hips left to right and try bending your legs for an even deeper stretch. Check out even more of our favorite sciatica stretches for pregnancy below.
Please be mindful of your body while completing these stretches. If you are experiencing any lightheadedness or other difficult pregnancy symptoms, consult with your doctor or physical therapist. They will be able to provide alternative stretches or solutions that can help.
If neither of the above at-home methods has helped, try out a self-massage (or have your partner help out!). Add your heating pad beforehand to really loosen up those muscles and relieve pain.
Gently rub or knead your hip, bottom, and lower back. You could also schedule a prenatal massage with a licensed therapist; just be sure to inform them of the areas you are experiencing pain.
Optimize Your Environment
Sleeping with sciatica during pregnancy can be a nightly struggle, so it’s all about trying things and finding what works best for you to relieve the pain and discomfort. Set yourself up for success by optimizing the environment around you.
Do you have pregnancy pillows and other items to make you comfortable during sleep, like extra blankets, an eye mask, or blackout curtains? Is the temperature in your bedroom well-regulated or would it help to add a fan? Do you have what you need for your pregnancy sciatica stretches easily accessible? Optimizing your environment in advance can make a big difference when sciatica pain strikes.
Try our versatile Full Body Side Sleeper Pillow to get comfortable and reduce sciatica pain day and night.
10 Stretches For During Pregnancy
To relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve, foam rolling and sciatic stretches can help immediately relieve sciatica pain. If there is one movement for instant sciatica pain relief, it's one that really focuses on stretching out that hip rotator and flexor.
Hip stretches in pregnancy may look slightly different; you may need to modify or try the stretch in a seated position. Let's look at some of our favorite sciatica stretches for pain relief that you can do from home, either seated or standing.
If you are experiencing sciatica or hip pain during pregnancy, having a toolkit of stretches you can go to and do while standing can be handy. Try out our recommendations for standing sciatica stretches below and see which one you like best! You might even find one that relieves sciatica pain immediately for you.
- Standing Lumbar Extension: Standing upright with your feet hip-width apart, place your hands at your lower back and gently tip your head towards the ceiling as you arch your back. Only go back as far as you are comfortable, and you should feel a stretch in your hip flexors.
- Table Stretch: Find the nearest table and stand facing it about arm's length away, with your feet facing forward and slightly wider than your hips. Place your hands on the table and lean forward, keeping your back flat. Shift your hips away from the table and enjoy the nice stretch in your back and hips. Bending during pregnancy, 2nd trimester, or otherwise, is safe.
- Squatting: Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and bend your knees while lowering your hips. Try to move your hips back in space to avoid your knees tracking over your toes. Your back should remain straight, with your chest lowering slightly forward. Return to standing and repeat.
- Standing Pigeon Pose: Position yourself in front of a table and slowly lift the leg of your affected side up with a bent knee. Place your hands on the table in front of you for support. Rotate your knee externally so that your shin is parallel to the edge of the table. Rest your leg on or against the table and lean into the stretch. You should feel it in your hips and bottom.
- Standing Cat-Cow: Stand upright with your shoulders back and feet hip-width apart. Start by rolling your head and neck down towards your chest while you curve your spine. Slowly reverse the position by tilting your head and chin back towards the ceiling and arching your back. You can either place your arms by your side, on your hips, or straight out in front of you.
Check out our blog for more helpful tips and tricks to keep you and your baby healthy and comfortable during pregnancy and beyond.
For some people, figuring out even how to sit with sciatica is a challenge. The best sitting position for sciatica to minimize pressure on the nerve is with your feet flat on the floor, knees at a 90-degree angle, and back straight. Now that you know how to sit with sciatica, try out some of our best stretches for sciatica that you can do either seated or lying down.
- Seated Pigeon Pose: From a seated position in a chair, raise the leg of your affected side and rest that foot on top of your other knee. You'll be in a seated figure four position and should feel a stretch along your hip and bottom. Maintain your posture while leaning slightly forward to feel a deeper stretch and hold.
- Seated Butterfly Stretch: For this stretch, come to a seated position on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together to touch in front of you. Bring your feet in towards your pelvis as close as you can comfortably go. Shift your weight around slightly and feel the deep stretch in your hips.
- Extended Child's Pose: Start by kneeling on a yoga mat, and slowly move your knees outward while keeping your toes touching. When you're ready, extend your arms out in front of you on the mat and bring your bottom down toward the ground. Try walking your hands slightly from left to right to feel the stretch along the side of your body and your back and hips.
- Seated Cat-Cow: To do cat-cow seated, sit towards the edge of your chair with your back upright. Place your hands on your knees and slowly roll your head and neck down while curving your spine. Hold for a few seconds before reversing. Begin by straightening your back, rolling your head and neck up, tilting them back, and arching your back. Repeat as many times as you'd like.
- Bridge Pose: While lying on your back on a yoga mat, bend your knees and keep your arms at your sides. Shifting weight to your hands and feet, slowly and carefully lift your pelvis towards the ceiling, feeling the stretch through your hip flexors. Hold for a few seconds before lowering back down and repeating.
Sleep Soundly and Relieve Sciatica Pain During Pregnancy with a Boppy Pregnancy Pillow
Sciatica pain is no joke, especially when pregnant and already uncomfortable. Adding a pregnancy pillow to your sleep routine is one of the simplest ways to help mitigate the pain. Place it between your legs to better align your pelvis and shift the pressure away from your sciatic nerve. We promise you'll feel a difference.
Here at Boppy, we're on a mission to support you from the early stages of pregnancy to postpartum recovery and beyond. We make products with moms and comfort in mind. Read more about our story and mission, and shop our collection of pregnancy pillows in all shapes and sizes.