When planning your pregnancy, age is an important factor to consider. Because pregnancy itself contributes to sciatic nerve irritation (due to the temporary changes that occur in your body during this state), pregnant women of any child-bearing age (i.e. menstrual), are prone to sciatica symptoms–regardless of whether or not they just hit menarche or are close to menopause. However, middle-age women are even more likely to experience sciatica during their pregnancy. There is a connection between a woman’s age and sciatica risk.
Most people, men and women alike, experience sciatica in middle age: when they are between 30 and 50 years old. As you go through life, your spine takes a beating, weakening and becoming more vulnerable from years of vigorous use. An older spine is also more likely to have developed an age-related medical condition. This slow decline of your spinal health in middle age may become more evident, as your growing baby may irritate it further, increasing your chances of encountering the pains of sciatica.
Now, let’s explore why women who begin their families later in life are at a greater risk for sciatica during their pregnancy in more depth.
Age and Sciatica
1. Weakening and Degeneration of the Spine
As age increases, the health of your spine tends to decrease. Between your job, social life, and hobbies, your spine gets an intense workout every day–and this adds up over the years. Maybe it has gotten you through many laborious moves as you’ve packed up and traveled the world or it has had to keep up with your gym visits or it has bent and twisted to win you gymnastic trophies–whatever the reason, it is clear that we use our spines a lot. And the more you use something, the quicker it gets damaged–especially if it is not taken care of. If we do not exercise in moderation and keep our spines strong with a proper diet, the spine can weaken from accumulated wears and tears. By middle age, our overworked spine can cause back pain and makes you more vulnerable to injury and/or medical conditions that affect the spinal cord–and thus can cause sciatica.
2. Diseases that Affect the Spine
Aside from the damage we inflict on our spines from our lifestyles choices, our spines go through a normal degenerative process, labeled degenerative disc disease. Our spinal discs, soft discs that make up the spine and allow it to move, begin to wear away around age 30–the start of middle age. Although the discs can breakdown at any point on the spine, one of the most common locations for it to occur is in the lower back–therefore being a main contributor to sciatica pain. The spine also undergoes other changes as it ages, like bone spurs and herniated discs–both of which are common causes of sciatica.
Tip for Women: Have Children Younger
By having children when you are younger, you can reduce your chance of dealing with sciatica pain during your pregnancy. Ideally, you would want to begin your family before you hit or when you are in the early stages of middle age to best circumvent this age risk factor.
Why is younger better? The younger you become pregnant, the healthier and stronger your spine will be. Diseases of the spine tend to strike later in life, so they will not yet pose a problem; lifestyle choices that affect your spine will not have had as much time to accumulate and damage your spine. Still new to the world, your young spine will be less likely to have external factors (i.e. factors outside of your pregnancy) contributing to sciatic nerve irritation. But, remember, there are no guarantees. Even if you are young when you become pregnant you may still experience sciatica symptoms. Not only is your pregnancy a huge factor but there are many other variables that can cause sciatic nerve pressure during your pregnancy.
Knowing that age is a risk factor for sciatica during pregnancy should prepare you, not scare you. If you are still in the early stages and thinking about the best time to have a baby, you can now factor age into your decision. If you are an expectant, middle-age mother, you can read up on -sciatica and know what to expect in case you encounter this pain while pregnant.