While pregnancy comes with a whole array of strange side effects, one of the strangest may occur when you’re walking along, minding your own business and — out of the blue — Oh my, I can’t feel my legs! Leg numbness may seem so disconcerting that it convinces you to head — or rather, hobble — to the nearest hospital. But experts say all this hubbub may be unnecessary.
Turns out it’s completely normal. According to Jenny Jaque, OB/GYN at Health Goes Female, as many as one-quarter of all moms-to-be experience numbness in their lower limbs, most often during the third trimester.
The reason — in case you haven’t guessed already — is your growing belly, which can end up pressing on and pinching your sciatic nerve, which originates in your pelvis and runs down both legs. But just because room is tight in there doesn’t mean you have to suffer.
“It is best to lie down for a few minutes when these symptoms occur, usually on your left side,” says Gail O’Neill, a physical therapist of Shift Integrative Medicine. This should shift the weight in your abdomen in such a way that it will relieve pressure on the nerve, causing sensations in your legs to return — and hopefully remain that way once you sit up (if not, try lying down again for a few minutes in a slightly different position to shift your innards around a bit more).
If the numbness becomes a continual nuisance, there are other things you can do. “Some women benefit from wearing a belly binder, which helps to lift the heavy uterus away from the sciatic nerve,” says O’Neill.
While leg numbness is usually nothing to worry about, when in doubt consult your OB/GYN or midwife. “Women need to be concerned when leg numbness is only experienced in one leg and has other associated symptoms, such as calf tenderness and swelling in one leg out of proportion to the other,” says Dr. Jaque. “This could indicate that a woman may have a blood clot in her calf.”
If not treated, this could lead to more severe complications like a stroke. But it’s rare. Typically, leg numbness is a temporary problem that will disappear once your baby is out.
Did you experience leg numbness or other puzzling symptoms during pregnancy, and if so how did you deal?