Leg cramps in pregnancy

Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

 

There is no real scientific reason why pregnant women get more leg cramps. It is possible that your leg muscles may get tired from carrying the extra weight of your growing uterus.  Cramps could also be related to swelling from fluid build-up in your legs, a condition known as oedema.  Legs often swell during pregnancy because the pressure of your growing uterus slows the blood returning from your legs to your heart.  You may first notice leg cramps during the second trimester and they may get worse as your pregnancy progresses.  These cramps can sometimes occur during the day but you will most likely notice them at night and they can interfere with your ability to get a good nights’ sleep. There is no real sure-fire cure for leg cramps during pregnancy.  If you develop a cramp stretch your calf muscles immediately by straightening your leg, heal first and gentle flex your toes back towards your shins.  This stretch may initially hurt but it will ease the spasm and gradually make the pain go away.  After you stretch massage the muscle, warm it with a heat pack or hop into a warm bath.  Walking around for a short period may also help.  There are no real ways of preventing leg cramps during pregnancy but these tips may help.

 

  • Don’t stand or sit with your legs crossed for long periods of time
  • Stretch your calf muscles regularly during the day and several times before you go to bed
  • Rotate your ankles and wriggle your toes whenever you sit down
  • Take a walk every day
  • Lie on your left side to improve circulation to and from your legs
  • Drink water regularly to stay hydrated
  • Try a warm bath before you go to bed to help relax your muscles

 

There is some research suggesting that taking a magnesium supplement in addition to your pre-natal vitamins may help prevent leg cramps. There is also a theory that a calcium supplement will relieve the problem.  Whilst it is important to consume enough calcium there is no evidence that taking extra calcium supplements will help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy.  The only time we are concerned with leg cramps is if your muscle pain is constant and not just an occasional cramp; if you notice swelling, redness or tenderness in your calf muscles; or if your leg feels hot to touch.  These symptoms may be a sign of a blood clot that will require immediate medical attention.  Whilst rare, they are more common during pregnancy.