Leg Cramps During Pregnancy: Reasons, Signs and Treatment

Leg Cramps During Pregnancy
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Being pregnant is a beautiful and complicated experience for many women. The process of pregnancy is no easy feat, but it is entirely essential for the continuation of human life.

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Nevertheless, the early stages can be quite tricky, and leg cramps during pregnancy are very common. Leg cramps during pregnancy are common symptoms that women experience in the second and third trimester.

Studies have shown that almost half of all women who are pregnant have reported muscle spasms in their third trimester. These leg cramps usually manifest at night, especially when you’re supposed to be getting your beauty sleep.

Women would feel tightness in their foot, calf, or both areas in the body. Cramps can also be triggered when a pregnant woman is seated in a position for a long time.

Preventing leg cramps can be somewhat challenging, but some measures can be taken to control them. These measures would include staying hydrated, stretching, and staying active.

Read on to find out more about how to control leg cramps during pregnancy.

Why do women experience leg cramps during pregnancy?

A number of factors can trigger cramps, and some of them include the following:

Dehydration

Pregnant women are required to drink at least 8 cups of water every day to stay hydrated. Symptoms of dehydration could be seen as dark yellow urine, instead of clear or near clear urine. Dehydration can lead to extreme leg cramps and can be controlled by increasing your daily water intake.

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Circulation changes

Circulation slows down when a woman is pregnant. These bodily changes are regular and are no reason to panic. The hyperactive hormones in the body cause this, and they are entirely at work during pregnancy.

Leg cramps during pregnancy occur during later trimesters when the body experiences a high blood volume, hence, slowing the body’s circulation.

Hints on how to improve circulation

  • Pregnant women should sleep on their left side.
  • They should lift their legs as often as they can.
  • A pillow placed between or under the legs at night would also be helpful.
  • It is advisable to walk around every hour, especially when your job involves you sitting for long periods.

Fatigue

Getting tired during pregnancy is very reasonable, considering the fact that another human is growing inside you. Leg cramps can occur when the muscles get fatigued as a result of added pressure.

Plenty of water would go a long way into preventing cramps from happening.

Weight gain

Gaining weight is inevitable when you have a baby growing inside your body. This growing human can cause leg cramps, particularly in your third trimester. Maintaining a healthy weight and being active during pregnancy are the most manageable steps to preventing leg cramps.

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Consult with your doctor to get more information.

Magnesium or calcium deficiency

Having a diet that has too little magnesium or calcium may contribute to cramps in the legs. However, if you’re already on prenatal vitamins, then you probably don’t need additional supplements.

A review in 2015 showed that almost 390 women who were taking calcium or magnesium supplements displayed little to no difference when affected by leg cramps during pregnancy.

You may want to discuss with your doctor about your concerns about the number of supplements you are supposed to take.

Deep Vein Thrombosis blood clot

A DVT blood clot can be experienced in the legs, pelvis, or thigh. A DVT is likely to occur 5 to 10 times in women who are pregnant than women who are not. While the chances of experiencing a deep vein thrombosis are very slim, it’s also important to note that the experience is somewhat discomforting.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid a DVT is to avoid hours of inactivity. It is advised that pregnant women engage in activities that allow them to move around more.

If you have a job that requires you to maintain a position (seated) for too long, then it would be wise to set a reminder in your mobile device that tells you its time to walk around. You may also want to check in with your doctor if you’re planning a long flight.

The symptoms of blood clots are somewhat similar to leg cramps, notwithstanding, a deep vein thrombosis requires a medical emergency. Call your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing the following symptoms:

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  • Severe pain in the legs when you’re moving around or standing still
  • Extreme swelling of the legs
  • Affected area is warm when you touch it

Controlling leg cramps during pregnancy

Because leg cramps can cause so much discomfort, some steps can be taken to control or prevent them from happening, and these are some of the following:

Stretching before bedtime

Stretching the calves before you sleep at night is an excellent way to help ease or prevent the cramps. These may be achieved through the following steps:

  • Try standing straight facing the wall with about an arm’s length away
  • Place your hands on the wall facing you
  • Step back with your right foot, but ensure that your heels are on the floor all the time.
  • Bend the left knee while the other leg of kept straight
  • Maintain the position for about 30 seconds before switching to the right leg

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water while pregnant is completely important. This helps to prevent dehydration that can lead to painful leg cramps. It is recommended that a pregnant woman should drink 8 to 12 cups of freshwater every day.

Massaging

Massaging the affected area is an excellent way to ease the pain. You can use your hand to gently massage the area where the pain is focused for about 40 seconds to a minute. Prenatal massage is also another option, and it has shown to work wonders.

You can also contact an experienced therapist close to you to recommend other massage options.

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Applying heat

Applying heat to the cramping muscles is also useful in relieving pains caused by cramps. Heat can help to loosen up the painful effect of leg cramps.

Regular workout

It is ideal to stay active while pregnant, but be sure not to go overboard. With your doctor’s permission and recommended pregnancy-safe routines such as walking, yoga, and swimming, pregnant women can control the leg cramps they experience during pregnancy.

Maintaining a constant workout routine can help promote circulation, control weight gain, and help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy. It is vital to warm up and stretch before and after exercising so that the muscles you’re trying to relieve do not cramp up.

Avoiding inactivity

Sometimes, it might be difficult to run or hike when pregnant. This is quite understandable, especially since your condition doesn’t allow you to do some things.

Notwithstanding, sitting in one position for too long isn’t ideal as it can cause muscle and leg cramps. You would have to move around by walking around the house or taking strolls in the streets.

This should be done at least one hour of inactivity. A timer can be set on your phone to let you know when you need to get up and move those legs.

When should you see a doctor?

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Leg cramps during pregnancy are very common symptoms that most women experience. Sometimes, the pain can be a bit unbearable and can affect your sleep. This is the best time to see your doctor at your next checkup.

Let your doctor know if the cramps are persistent, severe, or worsening. Supplements or medications may have to be administered. Request for immediate care if you’re experiencing difficulties walking, swelling in your legs, or enlarged veins.

These are possible signs of a blood clot.

How do you restrict leg cramps before you start experiencing them?

The following are some easy steps to follow if you don’t want to experience leg cramps:

  • Drink at least 8 of water each day
  • Engage in different activities during your pregnancy
  • Ensure that you stretch your calf
  • Avoid footwear like heels that would stress your legs
  • Maintain a healthy balanced diet that contains calcium and magnesium. These include nuts, seeds, yogurt, whole grains, dried fruits, leafy greens and more

Conclusion

Leg cramps during pregnancy isn’t an enviable experience. However, this symptom is common in pregnant women, and it affects them mostly at night.

It is essential that you carry your doctor along, most especially when you feel like the pain of too much. Don’t be too shy to speak up when you find it too difficult to walk. The goal is to make your pregnant experience as smooth as possible.

Have you ever experienced leg cramps during pregnancy before? If yes, how were you able to manage the discomfort? Kindly leave tips or suggestions that other potential readers might find helpful?

Leg Cramps During Pregnancy
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Oluwafemi Michael
Oluwafemi Michael is an online Mental Health Therapist, Advocate for Mental Health Awareness, a programmer, and also a content creator from Edo state, Akoko-Edo LG.
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