Nerve Injuries Caused by Pregnancy and Childbirth

pregnant woman sitting on bed holding bellyNerve damage can result from pregnancy and childbirth for a variety of reasons, but many women are unaware of the risks. They may suffer in silence without realizing that the pain and other symptoms they are experiencing after delivery are not normal. If you have signs of nerve damage after having a baby, contact a nerve specialist for an evaluation of post-traumatic pain and to discuss treatment options.

Common Symptoms

Nerve injuries after pregnancy and childbirth can range in severity depending on which nerves are affected. Symptoms of a nerve injury may include:

  • Loss of sensation or numbness
  • Muscle weakness of one or both legs
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • Motor impairment
  • Pain in the back, legs, hips, pelvis, or other lower extremities

Causes and Types of Pregnancy Nerve Injuries

There are numerous causes of nerve injuries that result from pregnancy or childbirth. Pregant women with diabetes are at a higher risk for nerve injuries. Nerve damage can occur when there is compression of the peripheral nerves during childbirth. Women who are in labor and have to push for long periods of time are more likely to suffer from nerve damage.

Some common causes of nerve injuries from childbirth are:

  • C-section delivery
  • Vaginal delivery using forceps or vacuum extraction
  • Positioning on the delivery table
  • Having your feet in stirrups during delivery

In rare cases, nerve damage can result from a spinal or epidural injection.

Symptoms of nerve damage will depend on which nerve is compressed or damaged during pregnancy or labor. The following are just a few examples:

  • Lateral cutaneous nerve. This nerve of the thigh can become injured and compressed since it passes under the groin area.
  • Lumbosacral plexus and sciatic nerve. During pregnancy, the baby’s head can compress on the lumbosacral plexus, and as a result, numbness can occur in the lower leg, top of the foot, and the outside of the thigh.
  • Femoral nerve. The femoral nerve can become injured if forceps were used during delivery or if a lower segment c-section was performed. Damage to this nerve can cause numbness of the inner part of the lower leg or over the front of the thigh. Some women experience weakness when extending the knee or find it difficult to climb stairs.
  • Common peroneal nerve. This nerve can become damaged during labor as a result of being positioned in stirrups or while lying on your back since it passes over the bone of the calf. Compression of the peroneal nerve can cause numbness over the outer part of the lower leg and the top of the foot.
  • Obturator nerve. Damage to the obturator nerve can occur if the baby’s head compresses it or if forceps were used during delivery. Numbness along the inner thigh and hip weakness can occur if this nerve is injured.

Nerve Injury Treatment Options

In many cases, nerve damage after childbirth is temporary and will resolve on its own within a few days or weeks. For those who experience prolonged pain or other symptoms, consulting with a peripheral nerve specialist is recommended to diagnose and evaluate the cause of the nerve pain.

To diagnose nerve pain, a physical exam will be done, and a nerve block may be used. If the nerve block provides pain relief and numbness to the affected nerve, it can indicate a peripheral nerve injury. Once diagnosed, treatment options will be recommended based on your specific condition and needs. Treatment options for a nerve injury after childbirth may include:

  • Medication. Over-the-counter pain medications and topical medications may be used to provide relief.
  • Physical therapy. For those who have muscle weakness and limited mobility, physical therapy can help improve strength and movement while decreasing pressure on the injured nerve.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). TENS is done by placing electrodes on the skin to transmit a gentle current of electricity to the nerve endings in order to provide pain relief.
  • Surgery. In some cases where conservative options do not provide relief, surgery may be needed to repair damaged nerves or release them from tissue.

If you have questions about nerve injuries after pregnancy and childbirth or are suffering from post-traumatic pain, contact Dr. Williams for an evaluation. To schedule an appointment in the Baltimore office, contact us at (410) 709-3868 or fill out our contact form online.