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Many pregnant women experience pain in the lower back that follows that path of the sciatic nerve, running into the leg and through the foot. When the nerve becomes inflamed, usually due to increased pressure somewhere along the course of the nerve, it causes discomfort for mom-to-be.  Persistent pressure can also result in numbness, tingling, and weakness in the leg, similar to the feeling of pins and needles you get when your leg falls asleep. 

A common misconception is that the weight of the baby on the nerve causes the pain, but it is more likely that the changes to the whole body to blame. Hormonal changes loosen the joints to help the body prepare for childbirth and create a shift in the pelvis and spine that may affect the sciatic nerve.  The increased weight and strain on the body also makes it more difficult to maintain good posture to hold the spine in a good position, and tightness in the hips and low back can also be a factor.  The actual source of the pain down the leg may also be in the back itself, such as from a bulging disc, and not due to injury or compression at the actual sciatic nerve.

To relieve the stress, be aware of your:

This gets harder to do as your body changes, but try to keep your bottom tucked in and your shoulders back.  Pregnant women tend to arch their back and slump shoulders as their belly grows, putting more strain on the spine. 

Physical Therapy
Physical therapy can be helpful to anyone suffering from sciatica, especially women during pregnancy.  We can provide techniques to help better align your pelvis and spine, and provide stretching for the back and hips. We will also teach you gentle exercises to strengthen muscles to help you hold better posture.  Sometimes a maternity support brace is ordered to help support the belly and back, especially when standing and walking.

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If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know how awful swelling can get in your feet and ankles – especially in the last trimester. Your skin feels itchy, tight and stretched to the max and your legs look like elephant trunks, but it’s NORMAL. (Just like most of the weird things your body does during pregnancy!)

 When I was pregnant nine years ago, I couldn’t wear socks or tie my shoes the last three weeks of the pregnancy, but I also couldn’t see my feet so I figured “out of sight, out of mind!”  My doctor suggested special hose, laying on my left side and elevating my legs above my heart – easier said than done. Further, I had to watch my blood pressure because the swelling can be a symptom of preeclampsia.


For 80% of pregnant women, the question remains – what can be done about lower leg swelling?  First, you need to understand what is causing it. The lymph system is comprised of three parts the lymph fluid (the swelling you see around your ankles and feet), the lymph vessels (how the fluid moves from lymph nodes to lymph nodes) and the lymph nodes. We have about 300-500 hundred lymph nodes throughout our body.  There are major lymph nodes in the arm pit area (axillary) and in the groin area (inguinal.)  As baby gets bigger your thoracic area pushes down on the inguinal lymph nodes and stops the flow of lymph fluid out of the lower extremities, resulting in swelling. To completely get rid of the extra fluid would be to find a way to take the pressure off the inguinal lymph nodes and start the lymph flow again. Giving birth is one obvious way, but it may take up to two weeks to reduce the edema and actually slide into your pre-pregnancy shoes or jeans. 

 Another option would be to wear compression maternity panty hose or knee-highs, if you cannot tolerate pantyhose. If you’d like to explore compression garments, Juzo and Jobst offer a good quality product. Check online or with your local pharmacy.

 Last but not least…exercise! Try walking at least 10- 20 minutes per day because the calf muscles have a pumping effect on the lymph system and the motion helps to move the lymph fluid out of the lower extremities.

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When preparing to have a baby, there may be health concerns that come up throughout your pregnancy. One of these health concerns could be gestational diabetes, which affects 18 percent of expecting mothers. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that causes high blood sugar (glucose) and is usually diagnosed about halfway through the pregnancy. 

When food is digested, most of it changes into glucose (or sugar) in the blood.  Glucose is a much needed fuel for the cells in your body.  In order for the glucose to leave the blood and enter the body’s cells it needs the hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas. Pregnancy hormones can block the insulin from doing its job. Pregnant women may need up to three times as much insulin while their baby is growing and sometimes the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand. Glucose then builds up to a high level which is also called hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and that’s when gestational diabetes starts.

All pregnant women should receive an oral glucose tolerance test between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy to screen for the condition. Women who are at risk may be screened earlier in the pregnancy.

Risk factors
You are at greater risk for gestational diabetes if you:

  • Are older than 25 when you are pregnant
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds or had a birth defect
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have too much amniotic fluid
  • Have had an unexplained miscarriage or stillborn
  • Were overweight before your pregnancy

Affects on the baby
Most women with gestational diabetes are able to control their blood sugar with no harm to their baby. However, untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes may have possible consequences to the health of your child. This can increase the chance of problems at the time of delivery, including:

  • Birth injury (trauma) because of the baby’s large size
  • Delivery by c-section

The goals of treatment are to keep blood sugar levels within a normal range during pregnancy. The most common way to check blood sugar levels is to use a glucometer, or glucose meter. Your healthcare provider should closely check both you and your baby throughout the pregnancy which includes fetal monitoring and often includes ultrasound and nonstress tests. If you are concerned about gestational diabetes, speak with your healthcare provider right away.

Gestational diabetes: post-pregnancy

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When you are having a baby, you are faced with many questions which can seem overwhelming.  One of the most important is, how you are going to feed your baby? All governing health agencies recommend breastfeeding as the best form of nutrition for your baby, and so does Fort HealthCare. Of course, the transition to breastfeeding is not always easy, so we  will help you in every way to make this a positive and successful experience. 

Here are 5 things to remember:

  1. You will provide only one teaspoon of milk per feeding for the first 2-3 days of your infant’s life.  All infants have enough fluid to last for 2-3 days but it is important to remember that frequent early feedings will help your milk come in sooner and more abundantly.  We recommend feeding per infant cues, but at least 8 times daily.
  2. Infants are hardwired to breastfeed.  We can help this process by giving them early and unlimited access to the breast.  We initiate this with the use of skin-skin as soon as the infant is born.  This wakens the infant’s reflexes and we see infants breastfeeding more often and longer.
  3. Your infant should stay with you.  Your baby knows you and wants to be with you.  He will know you by smell and sound. By staying close to you he will be happier and you will learn to read his cues.  Babies breastfeed better when Mom recognizes their feeding cues and puts to breast.
  4. Your baby should not be given a bottle or pacifier without talking to a lactation consultant.  They may interfere with your baby’s ability to latch.
  5. Breastfeeding should not hurt.  If you are having pain past the initial latch, call for help.  Remember this is new for you and your baby.  Don’t expect perfection.

Breastfeeding gives your new baby the very best start. It supplies food, comfort, and love. Experts agree: Breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for babies during the first year of life and beyond. It’s healthy for Mom, too. Breastfeeding may be challenging at first. But you and your baby can succeed together. 

If you are having difficulty breastfeeding, call (920-568-5300) one of our five certified Lactation Consultants to provide counseling. Often, simple adjustments can make a world of difference. Visit to learn more about how we’re helping you have a healthier baby.

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