Q. I'm 30 weeks pregnant and my back constantly hurts with a numbness feeling. What is it?
A. Ahhhh, a case of sciatic back pain. I remember that. At times the pain became increasingly sharp- as if someone was periodically stabbing a small knife into my lower back. Sometimes the pain would shoot down my right leg like lightning. Sometimes it made an appearance for only a minute or two, while other times it set up residence and stayed for days at a time.
Random and/or constant sciatic back pain can be accompanied by a feeling of numbness in the lower extremities. It is caused by the position of the baby - sometimes the baby presses on certain nerves that can trigger pain or numbness. Don't worry, the pain will end... when the baby is born.
Q. I am pregnant for the first time and I am at 18 weeks. I sneezed two times the other day and immediately felt a pain at the top of the place where my buttocks folds—near my lower back. It is quite painful when I sit, stand, bend over and when I press it. Do you have any ideas?
A. You probably experienced a muscle spasm or cramp, which can be associated with the stretching and repositioning of ligaments, tendons, muscles and guts. Sometimes a sudden movement-, such as sneezing-, can trigger a cramp in an area that you never had problems with before. Your body is changing and readjusting on the inside and out. It's bound to feel and function differently.
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Q. Can I have a healthy baby at 35 weeks? I've been experiencing some pre-labor symptoms, but don't know for sure. I can literally feel the baby's head between my legs and have constantly achy pelvic bones. It feels like she is going to just fall out! I have diarrhea all the time and a constant backache. Is it too early for this? Do I have to put up with all of it for six more weeks? I'm not having true contractions yet, still just Braxton Hicks.
A. It sounds as if your baby has "dropped" into the birthing position, which would explain the achy pelvis, backache and diarrhea. The baby is now hanging very low, putting a lot of pressure on your cervix, bowels and pelvis bone. I remember thinking it felt as if I had been horseback riding for a week straight.
It's hard to say if you will have to endure your present state of discomfort for another six weeks or not. Be on the lookout for other signs of labor and have your bags packed and ready to go. If you do go into labor now and deliver, your baby has an excellent chance of survival. At this point, the baby's vital parts should all be well developed and she is just putting on a little more body fat.
If you don't go into labor anytime soon, try keeping your feet and lower extremities elevated as much as possible. You'll be more comfortable without the additional weight of gravity adding to the pressure you are already feeling down below.
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Q. I'm 20 weeks pregnant and previously had two early miscarriages. I have abnormal thrombin function so I'm on blood thinners to help prevent miscarriage due to clotting. I have constant lower back pain that gets worse while I'm lying in bed. I try to sleep on my side and use lots of pillows for support, but it doesn't seem to help. When I get up the pain eases, but by the end of the day I just can't get comfortable in any position. I've read that lower back pain is a sign of premature labor and I'm really worried that this may happen. I occasionally get mild crampy feelings, like the pain I get the day before my period, but this has been going on all through my pregnancy. I also have fibromyalgia and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Do I need to worry that my back pain is a bad sign, or could it just be due to the fibromyalgia and IBS getting worse?
-Anonymous, United Kingdom
A. Any pre-existing chronic health problem has the potential to worsen with pregnancy. It's possible that your fibromyalgia and IBS are acting up more than usual.
Then again, what you've described could just be normal symptoms of pregnancy. (See other questions about back pain and labor for more details.) In either case, you should mention your discomfort to your OB/GYN. There may be treatment options available to you to help alleviate the pain.
Q. I was wondering if it is okay to use a heating pad while pregnant. I am almost six months and get backaches easily from everyday activities.
A. I think as long as your use of the heating pad is not extended, it's not on the highest setting (if electric) and it's just localized to your back, it should pose no problem during pregnancy. I've heard of some women putting an electric heating pad on a timer of an hour or less before bed so they could fall asleep. Another solution is to get a microwavable, moist-heat pad. These heating pads stay warm for about an hour and require no unplugging. (See: Snuggley Heating Pads for information about the microwavable pads.)
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Q. I am 18 1/2 weeks pregnant and have gone through a lot of stress lately. I went to the doctor with bad menstrual-like cramps, back pain and leg pain. He told me I have a bladder infection. I feel that I have no symptoms of a bladder infection – no burning, frequent urination, etc. I have been told to stay off of my feet for two days now and possibly three. Do I need an ultrasound to make sure the baby is okay or does this sound like a bladder infection? I have had no bleeding.
A. Your doctor probably diagnosed your bladder infection with a urine test that showed elevated levels of bacteria. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) are not immediately apparent and they can be much more frequent during pregnancy. (See the other UTI questions for more details.) The symptoms you've had may or may not be related to the infection. The cramping and back pain may be Braxton Hicks contractions, which are normal at this point in the pregnancy. The leg pain is also a very common ailment. (See "Braxton Hicks contractions" and "leg pains" for more information.)