Women may suffer from leg weakness throughout their lives, but it often plagues women during pregnancy. Leg weakness can result from the additional weight from the foetus and pressure of the uterus on the nerves in the back. Those who have had previous back pain or problems may be more likely to have pain and weakness in the legs during pregnancy.
The sciatic nerve is a long nerve that begins in the lower back and runs down the back of each leg to the feet. This nerve is responsible for feeling and sensations in the lower extremities of the body. When there is too much pressure on the sciatic nerve, muscle pain may occur. If pressure is constant and pain is persistent, as is possible during pregnancy, leg muscle weakness may occur, according to Women's Healthcare Topics.
As the foetus grows, the uterus may press against the sciatic nerve to cause back pain and leg weakness. In other instances, leg weakness may be caused by a bulging (herniated), slipped or damaged disc in the back that can be aggravated by pregnancy, according to Women's Healthcare Topics. The damaged disc can cause inflammation of the tissues surrounding the nerve and press on the sciatic nerve resulting in leg weakness.
Pregnant women who suffer from leg weakness may also notice numbing of the legs, tingling or a feeling of pins and needles in the lower back, legs or feet. Additional symptoms of sciatica are a shooting pain or burning sensation in the lower back, legs or buttocks, or pain in the lower back or back of the pelvis that may extend to one or both feet.
Women with leg weakness during pregnancy should contact a health care professional to discuss possible treatment options. Pregnant women may find relief by applying heat to the affected area several times each day and increasing the amount of rest they receive each night. Also, adjustments in posture can help to alleviate pressure on the sciatic nerve and ease leg weakness.
Physiotherapy can help to increase leg muscle strength and ease pressure on the sciatic nerve. Exercises that focus on strengthening the abdominal muscles, pelvic floor muscles and back muscles are especially beneficial, according to Women's Healthcare Topics. Additionally, chiropractic care during pregnancy may help to ease leg weakness. Sufferers may also find massage therapy helpful in easing inflammation and leg weakness associated with sciatica.
Leg weakness that is common during pregnancy may disappear on its own without any medical intervention. If physiotherapy, massage therapy or chiropractic care occurs during pregnancy, be sure each has experience or is certified to work with pregnant women.