What Should I Do If My Legs Cramp During Pregnancy?

Nov 3, 2022 |Pregnancy

Leg cramps are a fairly common experience during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, you may experience leg cramps, especially at night. If you are experiencing leg cramps, you may be concerned that this is a sign of a more serious issue. The following article will help you understand why leg cramps can occur, how to treat them, how to potentially prevent them, and when you should see a doctor about your cramps. 

Why Your Legs May Cramp During Pregnancy

Leg cramps can be caused by a variety of different factors. The following are the most common factors that you may experience during your pregnancy.

Circulation problems

circulation problems are a fairly common source of leg cramps during pregnancy. When you are pregnant, the circulation in your body tends to slow down, which can cause both cramping and swelling in your body.

How to prevent and treat:

Elevate your legs, especially at night, as this will help reduce swelling and improve circulation in your legs and feet.

You can also sleep with a pillow between your knees, if you sleep on your side, as this improves blood circulation.

Maternity pillows can help you maintain a good sleeping position that may help reduce leg cramps.

You must also make sure that you are staying active throughout the day; walk around at least every few hours, especially if you tend to sit for long periods.

Dehydration

Dehydration is a very common source of leg cramps, especially if you are chronically dehydrated. A well-hydrated body pumps blood much easier, increasing oxygen and blood flow through your muscles. When you’re dehydrated, these muscles may cramp up.

How to prevent and treat:

Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Aim for 8 to 12 cups of water. If you have trouble drinking enough water, consider using an app or tally sheet to make sure you’re getting enough water every day.

Nutritional deficiencies

if your body is deficient in certain vitamins or minerals, this can cause leg cramps. These deficiencies can be caused by your diet or because of hormone changes in your body. The most common nutritional deficiencies that cause leg cramps are calcium, potassium and magnesium deficiencies.

How to prevent and treat:

A prenatal vitamin can help reduce these types of deficiencies.

You should also consider adding foods with potassium, magnesium and calcium to your diet. These foods include bananas, spinach, nuts, avocados, salmon, seeds and dairy.

Muscle Strain and Fatigue

Did you know that your blood vessels are under extra pressure when you're pregnant? The uterus puts additional pressure on the blood vessels in your body, which causes the blood vessels in your lower body to become strained. This can cause leg cramps, especially when you're further along in your pregnancy.

How to prevent and treat:

Compression socks can help reduce the strain on your legs. Compression socks can also help reduce swelling, especially in your legs and feet.

You can also try stretching your muscles, which will help keep your blood circulation going in your legs.

Treating Leg Cramps at Home

Leg cramps can be painful and very uncomfortable, especially when you are pregnant. It is important to do what you can to prevent them, but if they are occurring, there are a few things you can do to reduce the discomfort.

  • Massage: massage your leg in order to reduce the tightened, cramping muscles. Rub your fingers firmly into the cramping muscle and rotate in order to help release the tightness.
  • Stretch:stretch your leg as soon as it becomes cramped. Stretching your leg will help the muscles to loosen up, while circulation is restored to the area. If you can massage your cramp at the same time as you stretch, this will help the pain go away quicker.
  • Ice and heat: once you have massaged and stretched, you can start applying pain-relieving treatments like ice and heat. Apply ice first, and then heat. Ice will deal with the pain, while heat will help relax your muscle and restore proper blood flow. Aim to keep each treatment on for about 15 minutes at a time, while giving yourself 20 minutes in between treatments to allow your skin and muscles to recover.
  • Epsom Salt: Relaxing in a bath with Epsom salts can help soothe your sore muscles and may potentially prevent cramps in the future. It may be beneficial to take a bath right before bed, particularly if your leg cramps tend to happen at night. If you don’t have Epsom salts or prefer not to use them, a regular warm bath can still help with the pain and discomfort from cramps.
  • Maternity pillows: Sleeping with a maternity pillow can be an excellent way to prevent or reduce the frequency of leg cramps. Maternity pillows are designed to get you into a comfortable position that will keep your circulation going at night.

When Should I See a Doctor?

Ordinary leg cramps are not typically something that requires a doctor’s visit unless they are interfering with your daily life or you are unable to stop them with simple home treatments.

If you are experiencing typical leg cramps, try the remedies above and see if they reduce or eliminate your leg cramps. If they don’t, then you will want to talk with your doctor about potential treatments.

If your leg cramps are frequent or severe enough to interrupt your sleep or they interfere with your ability to do things everyday, see your physician.

You should also see a doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms with your leg cramps:

  • Extremely swollen legs
  • Leg cramps that get worse or are extremely painful
  • Tenderness, redness and/or warmth in your leg(s)
  • Enlarged veins in your legs
  • Difficulty walking or standing

Leg cramps are not an uncommon symptom to experience during pregnancy. They can usually be treated by changing your diet and sleeping habits, along with applying ice and heat for pain. If you are experiencing additional symptoms or your leg cramps are severe, contact your physician.

 

 

Reference: https://www.healthline.com/health/pain-relief/what-causes-leg-cramps

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