What to do about leg cramps during pregnancy
Leg cramps are those painful sensations in your legs that often occur at night during pregnancy.
What causes it?
The cause of leg cramps isn’t entirely known. Some believe they may be a result of the added weight which your body has to carry since leg cramps are most frequent during the third trimester. Dehydration could also be a cause. Another possible cause is poor blood circulation due to the pressure your expanding uterus exerts on the blood vessels.
How to relieve leg cramps during pregnancy
- Stretching Exercise: Stretch your leg muscles at once by straightening your leg and foot and then, gently flex your toes back toward your shins. Don’t point your toes while stretching; it can make the muscle contract and worsen the cramp. This stretch might hurt at first, but it will ease the spasm and gradually make the pain go away.
- Massage: After you stretch, massage the muscle or warm it with a hot water bottle to relax the tissue. Walking around for a few minutes may also help.
How to prevent leg cramps during pregnancy
There’s no certain way to prevent leg cramps during pregnancy. But here are some tips that might help:
- Avoid standing or sitting with your legs crossed for long periods of time
- Try to stretch your calf muscles regularly during the day and several times before you go to bed
- You can rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes whenever you sit down, eat dinner, or watch TV
- Unless your healthcare provider has advised you not to exercise, take a walk every day
- Remind yourself to lie down on your left side to help improve circulation to and from your legs.
- Drink water as often as you can to stay hydrated during the day.
- Take a warm bath before bed to relax your muscles.
Do supplements work?
Some studies suggest that taking a magnesium supplement in addition to a prenatal vitamin may help prevent leg cramps. However, other researches show that taking magnesium supplements has no significant effect on the frequency or intensity of leg cramps during pregnancy.
You may have heard the saying that leg cramps are a sign that you need more calcium, and that calcium supplements will relieve the problem. However, while it’s important to get enough calcium, there’s no good evidence that taking extra calcium will help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy.
Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any kind of supplement during pregnancy.
Dr. Wanwadee Sapmee Panyakat (OB-GYN) (14 January 2020)