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Release the piriformis for a better birth

A pelvis model from the back showing a piriformis muscle.

21 Sep, 2023

The piriformis can be a pain in the bum!


The piriformis is a deeper muscle found in the bottom. It is a muscle that connects the thigh bone (femur) to the spine and pelvis at the sacrum.

It’s quite a small muscle that can be overused and quite tight, and can cause issues during pregnancy in particular.

Because the sciatic nerve run near, or even sometimes through it, a tight and spasming piriformis can press on it causing sciatic symptoms – such as pain in the bum and down the leg.

As pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity shifts due to the extra weight in your front.

To accommodate for this change, your feet will typically rotate outward to increase your base of support. Often your hamstrings, buttocks and lower back muscles tighten, particularly if they are making up for a weaker core. This can result in more ristriction

When this happens, your muscles that rotate the hip (including your piriformis) become shortened. This can make siatic or lower back pain worse.


What has the piriformis got to to do with birth?

The piriformis is one of the muscles surrounding the pelvis that has a great deal to do with birth.

A tight piriformis from a shortened muscle can stop your pelvis moving freely. It can make it difficult for your sacrum to move up and out for baby to be born, and can make moving your legs more difficult.

The goal in pregnancy is to keep the piriformis, and the other muscles around the pelvis working in harmony. Then when it comes to birth they can relax and do their job to move baby through that pelvis.

How to keep that piriformis working

Even if you are already in pain, movement often can really help. It is always sensible to see a woman’s healthy physio, or an osteopath to personally assess you. But there is a lot you can do at home to keep the piriformis muscle free.

  • Pay attention to those feet, make sure that those toes are facing forward as much as possible
  • Have an awareness of your posture – try to keep the tailbone untucked, but don’t let your ribs thrust out either – balance, and a neutral pelvis is what you’re after
  • Try some piriformis release exercises – 1) Sit on the edge of a chair, up on your sit bones, feet flat on the floor under your knees.  Lift one leg up and place the ankle on top of opposite knee.  Allow knee of top leg to rotate down gently.  Try to keep ankle straight – having the foot flexed helps.  Hold and breathe for a few seconds and then switch legs.
  • Another – 2) practice some birth preparation massage techniques with a birth partner fosucing on releasing tension around the pelvis
  • 3) Try some Pregnancy Yoga to help release tension

Do not underestimate the power of education. Knowledge is power after all.

CubCare Active Antenatal classes focus on how the process of labour works and how you can help move things along, and cope really well at the same time.

Time is spent getting familiar with techniques, and how you, your baby, your body, and birth partner can work together to make birth positive.

Pregnancy yoga Welwyn. Pregnant woman performing yoga. Side stretching on a yoga mat.
Pregnant person leaning over a chair with birth supporter using a rebozo around their baby bump
New family. Mum a woman with curly hair smiling and holding or feeding baby with dad leaning over and kissing baby's head

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