Sex, Smokes and Sciatica

Answering readers' questions with a yes, no and sorry, that sucks


It’s reader-question week! Let’s talk about sex, sciatica and smoking.

I know, sex first, right? Wrong, if I wrote about that first, you might not read to the end.

Question: Felicia wants to know if it’s really so horrible to sneak a smoke or two during pregnancy. She quit smoking, mostly, when she found out she was pregnant but every now and then, like when she’s hanging around with her friends, just ate a big dinner or when she’s bored, she just needs a cigarette. She wants to know, “Is this really horrible? Am I a bad Mom because I can’t completely stop smoking?”

Answer: It’s a little bit horrible but no, you’re not a bad Mom. You’re a smoker. Big news: Cigarettes are crazy addicting and giving them up is one of the most difficult things a person will do. There’s a billion dollar industry all about quitting. That’s because it’s really, really hard. Ask anyone – it sucks.

That said, do it anyway. Quit smoking completely, Felicia. It’s really not healthy for your placenta and therefore, not healthy for your developing baby. Every time you hit the cigs, the blood vessels in your placenta constrict and a jolt of nicotine (and a whole lot of other nasty chemicals) races into your baby’s blood stream. Yeah, I know, you said you only smoke the organic kind. Doesn’t matter, you’re still handing your baby the smokes one-way or the other.

If you smoke, “just a little” now, chances are, you’ll smoke just a little more after you deliver and then you’ll be exposing your baby to second hand smoke. That increases the odds of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and having a teenager who smokes and really bumps up the odds you’ll die of cancer before you finish raising your child. Just quit, Felicia.

Question: Chaney wants to know what to do about a very specific pain in the butt. She’s seven months pregnant and occasionally (especially during sex) a sharp pain runs from her low back through her butt cheek and down her leg. It goes away quickly but she doesn’t like it. It’s more than likely sciatica. The American Pregnancy Association explains:

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, providing sensory and motor function to the lower extremities. This nerve provides sensation to the back of the thigh, lower part of the leg and the sole of the foot. Sciatic nerve pain is a periodic severe pain that occurs throughout your legs.

The sciatic nerve runs under your uterus to your legs. The cause of sciatic nerve pain is thought to be associated with pressure on the nerve caused by the developing baby.

Answer: First of all, talk to your doctor to make sure it is sciatica and not some other type of back issue. Assuming it’s “just sciatic pain,” the trick to making it feel better is to relieve some of the pressure on the nerve. Switch positions during sex, sleep on your side, prop your legs up with pillows, do some yoga and stretch. If that doesn’t displace the weight of your uterus and baby off the nerve and provide relief, try ice and heat, a little Tylenol and a good massage. It won’t last forever. You’re almost due and delivery takes a load of your back. If you still have trouble after pregnancy see a chiropractor, massage therapist or physician.

Question: Dianna says she just can’t find a comfortable position to have sex now that she’s eight months pregnant yet she still wants to “do it.” Should she give up?

Answer: Heck no. The classic man-on-top missionary position isn’t doable now but there are a whole lot of other ways to do this thing. Since you’re asking me about it, and you’re pretty young, I’m thinking you might not be use to non-traditional positions and techniques yet. No time like the present to try a few things you haven’t tried before. Try “girl-on-top” in a seated (facing him) position. Try hands-and-knees, side lying and any position that involves rear-entry (I’m not talking about that kind of rear entry).

If you still can’t get close enough to have actual penis-in-vagina intercourse, get creative. Take turns taking care of each other. When it’s your turn to be taken care of, prop yourself up with as many pillows as you need and enjoy.

Sex after kids requires a whole other type of creativity so you might as well get a jump on that. Get some inspiration from books, magazines or videos and get busy. When Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” I’m pretty sure he was talking about sex.

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Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. 

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.