Sciatica during pregnancy. What it is and how to treat it

How can I tell if I have sciatica while pregnant?

sciatica_pregnancy

Editors note: The information in this article should never be used as a substitute for medical advice from a doctor. Please do not put into action any tips or techniques from this article without checking with your doctor first.


Sciatica during pregnancy is an extremely common complaint from expectant mothers. However, there is hope—there are ways to relieve it to an extent.

Sciatica during pregnancy can make an already confusing and stressful time even more so! But we've got you. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this type of pain.


What is sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It starts at the bottom of your spine, runs through your buttock and down the back of your leg, all the way to your toes.

Sciatica occurs when the growing baby puts pressure on the spine, causing a compression of the sciatic nerve. It is most common in the second and third trimesters.

Sciatica differs from other back or leg pains that are common in pregnancy, in that the pain often feels sharp and shooting and will often run down your leg. Sometimes, sciatica affects only one part of the leg, like the buttock or calf.

How can I tell if I have sciatica while pregnant?

The people I work with often describe sciatica as being "stabbed with a hot poker." So, as you can imagine, pain from this can be severe at times.

Sciatica pain can be confusing, as aches and pains all over the body are so common when you're carrying the extra weight of a growing pregnancy! However, you can usually tell that what you are experiencing is true sciatica by the sheer severity of the pain—if it's bad pain, there is a good chance it is sciatica.

You may also feel pins and needles or numbness along with the pain. This is another indicator of "true" sciatica. The pins and needles and numbness usually occur in the feet or toes, but you might notice your calf going numb, too.

If you have any of these symptoms, it's important to speak with your provider for diagnosis, and of course, treatment options.

What causes sciatica during pregnancy?

There are so many changes that occur to the body during pregnancy, but increased body weight and changes in posture are usually responsible for sciatica when pregnant.

Do I need an MRI scan for sciatica during pregnancy?

This is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms. However, if you have any "worrying" symptoms (like pelvic region numbness or loss of bladder and bowel control), you might need to be reviewed by a specialist, and an MRI may be ordered.

You should also get immediate attention from a doctor if you notice your legs growing weaker all of a sudden. This can happen when the nerve is so compressed that the muscles don't receive the signals they need to "work" properly.

How common is sciatica during pregnancy?

So common that over 50% of women will experience sciatica during pregnancy.

I find that most women who suffer from sciatica during pregnancy are told to just grit their teeth and bear it. When you're told you need to wait for the baby to come before you're going to be out of pain, it doesn't exactly relieve the pain, does it?

You'll be pleased to know that there are things we can do to relieve some of your symptoms.

Will sciatica during pregnancy affect my baby?

The sciatica itself will not affect your baby at all. However, it's important to stay active despite the discomfort. You need to be sure that stress levels are kept under control, and you stay healthy while carrying your child.

Did I do anything wrong to get sciatica during pregnancy?

Nope, it's often just a fact of life—it occurs as a direct result of an increased load on the front of your body.

This leads to great pressure through the spine and discs. If you have a very small, usually harmless disc bulge, it could be pushed towards the sciatic nerve, causing the sciatic symptoms.

But don't worry, it usually does resolve after you give birth.

However, there are still some measures you can take while pregnant to ease your pain and improve your symptoms.

What's the best way to treat sciatica during pregnancy?

First, talk to your provider and get their recommendations. With their approval, try these four remedies:

1. Wear a pregnancy girdle

It might sound uncomfortable, but a pregnancy girdle can actually lift your bump and distribute the weight of your tummy more evenly. This will have the effect of taking the pressure off the spine, and that could help ease your sciatica.

2. Rest, rest, rest

Although I said it's important to stay active even when suffering from sciatica during pregnancy, it's important to get your down-time, too, as suffering from a painful problem can make you stressed and tired.

Try having a lay down on your side, lying on the side of your non-painful leg.

3. Try hot or cold therapy

Cold as a treatment for can be effective pain, stress and inflammation management. The question I most commonly get asked about this is: "If sciatica is coming from my back, should I put the cold on my back or leg?"

The answer is: whatever suits you, but I would begin with the back.

Here's why:

  • Your back will likely be tight and sore when suffering from sciatica during pregnancy. The cold compress will help to dull the pain.
  • The direct cold treatment may help to ease inflammation around the problematic nerve in the spine.
  • Your back is a central part of your body—treating a central area of the body will have a global pain-relieving effect on the entire body.

If you opt for heat, you don't leave it on for extended periods, and you don't let it get too hot. It's best to only apply heat or cold for a maximum of 15 minutes at a time.

4. Stretch the buttock on just the non-painful side

Try the stretch shown below, only on your non-painful side. Now, this sounds strange, but it's one of the techniques I use with clients all the time to give them significant pain relief. You may notice a rapid improvement in your symptoms.

It is important to not stretch the painful side at all. Stretching the painful side only aggravates the sciatic nerve. By stretching the painful side, you're stopping the nerve from settling down and can make matters worse.

Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, on the non-painful side only. Repeat four to five times on that side each morning.

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When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.

$159.99

Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)

$9.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.

$14.99

Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.

$29.99

Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.

$7.99

This post is sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

1. Prep snacks on Sunday

This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

2. When in doubt, go for fruit

Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

3. Pair snacks with a dip

Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

4. Have high-protein options readily available

Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

5. Always keep the pantry stocked

Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

6. Make cracker tartines

I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

  • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
  • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
  • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

7. Pre-make smoothie pops

The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

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15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Stomp Racers

As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

$19.99

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

$139

Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Sand play set

B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.

$17.95

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$24.75

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

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Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

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If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


The correlations between screen time and children's health

But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

"When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

A novel look at screen time in adolescents

The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

Children's health

Shawn Johnson says a TSA agent 'groped' her while traveling with breast milk


"I can honestly say that was one of the worst experiences I have," Shawn Johnson East wrote on Instagram.

Shawn Johnson/Instagram

Shawn Johnson East had "one of the worst experiences" she's ever had recently while traveling. In a now-expired series of Instagram Story photos, Johnson East is calling out a TSA agent for alleged harassment.

She explains that she was trying to take breast milk through a TSA checkpoint when the incident occurred.


"To the lady at the TSA security checkpoint having a bad day... I'm really sorry you have had a bad day but take it out on me was unnecessary," she wrote in one post. "I can honestly say that was one of the worst experiences I have had."

To add to the stress, Johnson East says she was returning from her first kid-free trip by herself since the birth of her second baby, Jett, back in July.

"We as mamas have a duty to our babies and a right in this world to carry breast milk through security. Having you public[ly] humiliate me in proving to you it was actually breast milk was against my rights. To then be groped and yelled at in public was excessive," Johnson East, wrote in another post. "I know you were doing your job, but so was I."

TSA guidelines state that breast milk is "allowed in reasonable quantities" and that you don't need to be accompanied by your baby or child in order to travel with it. And just like any other liquid, it must be removed from your carry-on during the screening check.

Johnson East has been candid about the transition from one baby to two and how hard it is.

"I had some very, very low moments in those first couple of weeks, just because I missed my baby girl and I wanted to make sure she knew she was loved," Johnson East said earlier this year. "It's just that rough transition of splitting your heart and sharing it, and trying to show your love to your babies equally."

It's extremely unfortunate that a new mom experienced not only the standard duress of traveling while breastfeeding, but also alleged harassment on top of it. Sending solidarity and peaceful thoughts her way.

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