Pregnancy comes not only with joy but for some of us many aches and pains and little known conditions as well. Thankfully most of these ailments are short-lived and end with the birth, and have little or no harmful impact on the mother or baby. One such condition is leg cramps. The worst thing about these mostly nighttime attacks is that they can be painful. Many sufferers report being jolted awake by these cramps. They tend to begin in the second trimester.
Leg cramps are common in pregnancy but there is no definitive answer as to why some women have them. Some possible causes include:
- Being dehydrated: Some pregnant women, especially those who are working cut back on water and fluid intake so as to minimize the frequent trips to the bathroom. Trying to cut back on nighttime bathroom visits is another reason why pregnant women avoid drinking fluids, especially in the late evening hours. This can lead to muscle problems.
- Vitamins: Deficiency in certain Vitamins such as magnesium and potassium
- Weight gain during pregnancy: Weight gain in pregnancy can cause stress on leg muscles resulting in leg pain from conditions such as sciatica
- Lack of exercise: Exercise keeps the muscles supple. If muscles are not used often enough this can result in cramps and pains
How to deal with leg cramps
There are number of ways to alleviate leg cramps. Some may not be appropriate for everyone based on their medical condition. Discuss some of these with your OB/GYN or midwife if you have concerns. Prevention tips include:
- Take walks daily unless you are on bed rest or otherwise restricted
- Avoid long stretches of sitting or standing
- Avoid crossing your legs for long periods
- Give your ankles a little exercise. Practice rotating them and wriggling your toes periodically
- Drink lots of water
- A warm bath before bed can help relax leg muscles
- Try lying on your left side so as to aid circulation to your legs
- If possible have someone give you a leg massage before bed
The best way to deal with a leg cramp when you get one is to stretch your leg out. Flex your toes and as your stretch your calf muscles. There will be pain at first but this will gradually disappear. Doing this tends to stop the cramping quicker than just waiting for it to pass.
If you experience persistent pain from these leg cramps see your doctor just in case you have something more serious going on. One of the most likely causes could be a blood clot in the leg. This can be deadly and should be treated as soon as possible.