■ 3rd trimester Pain, tingling or numbness running down the buttock, back or thigh is called sciatica because it follows the course of the sciatic nerve. It's caused by pressure from the growing uterus, the baby or the relaxed pelvic joints on the sciatic nerve, which is a major nerve that runs from your lower back down the back of your legs to your feet. Lifting, bending and even walking may aggravate sciatica.

Although sciatica is no fun, it's generally not a cause for concern. When your baby changes position closer to the time of delivery, the pain is likely to ease. Occasionally, the problem is caused by a more serious condition called vertebral disk disease.

■ Prevention and self-care for sciatica

Warm baths, a heating pad and switching the side of your body that you sleep on may help with sciatic nerve pain. You may also find relief by changing your position regularly during the day, such as by getting up and moving around once every hour or so.

Swimming is another way to ease the discomfort. Being in the water temporarily takes some of the weight of your uterus off your sciatic nerve.

■ When to seek medical help for sciatica

Tell your health care provider if you're experiencing sciatica. Seek care if the numbness isn't transient, or if you're tripping when you walk or feel you can't move your foot with equal strength in all directions. He or she will want to rule out other, rarer causes of sciatica that could be more serious. It's fairly common to need physical therapy to help relieve sciatic nerve pain.

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