Leg Cramps During Pregnancy
Leg cramps during pregnancy are abrupt, involuntary, intense muscle pains.

Leg cramps (excruciating, uncontrollable muscular spasms that attack your foot, calf, or both) affect about half of all pregnant women. Pregnancy leg cramps are prevalent, especially in the second and third trimesters.

Although the specific reason for these muscle spasms is unknown, pregnancy weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, and changes in your blood circulation may contribute to leg cramps. The nerves and blood vessels that supply your legs may become compressed by the pressure of the developing baby.

What are leg cramps?

Leg cramps are abrupt, involuntary, intense muscle pains that typically occur in the calf, foot, or thigh. They are sometimes referred to as "Charley horses."

As a result of the cramp, your leg may occasionally spasm or stiffen up excessively.

  • Cramps are usually not harmful, but they can be uncomfortable to live with.
  • They affect your quality of sleep, exercise regimen, and overall well-being.
  • They may be brought on by certain illnesses and medications, and there are several risk factors you should keep away from.

When a cramp strikes, try flexing the affected muscle, applying heat or ice, and massaging the area.

How to avoid and treat pregnancy leg cramps

Avoid and treat pregnancy leg cramps in the following ways:

  • Stretch your calf muscle: Stretching before bed may help avoid leg cramps during pregnancy although there isn't enough research to support this. Place your hands on the wall in front of you while standing at arm's length from a wall; step your right foot behind your left. Keep your right knee straight and your right heel on the ground as you slowly bend your left leg forward. Keeping your back straight and your hips forward, hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Keep your feet from turning inward or outward. Repeat while changing legs. 
  • Massage: The most common approach to relieve a cramp and reduce the agony that comes with it is massage. The cramp can be relieved by rubbing the affected muscle and, occasionally, nearby muscles.
  • Add heat: You can use a heating pad, a microwave-heated cloth bag of rice, or some over-the-counter air-activated heating pads to apply heat to your cramping muscle.
  • Epsom salt bath: Warm baths can frequently relieve cramps and pain, but Epsom salt baths are typically somewhat more effective. They aid in your general relaxation and make your muscles feel less tense.
  • Ice the pain: To treat a cramping muscle, wrap some ice from the refrigerator in a soft towel or use an ice pack. The discomfort brought on by the cramping muscle is frequently relieved by this cold.
  • Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated will help you avoid cramping. If you are well hydrated, your urine should be reasonably clear or light yellow. If your urine is a darker shade of yellow, you may not be drinking enough water.
  • Get enough calcium: According to several studies, leg cramps during pregnancy may be caused by low blood calcium levels. Your doctor may prescribe calcium supplements along with a calcium-rich diet.
  • Increase your magnesium intake: According to some studies, a magnesium supplement may help avoid leg cramps during pregnancy. Make sure you have your doctor's approval before using a supplement. You can think about increasing your intake of foods high in magnesium, such as whole grains, beans, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.
  • Pick out the right footwear: Consider utility, support, and comfort while choosing your footwear. Wearing shoes with a solid heel counter—the area of the shoe that surrounds the heel and aids in locking the foot into the shoe—might be beneficial. 
  • Stay active: Avoid leg cramps during pregnancy with regular exercise. Make sure you get your doctor's approval before starting an exercise regimen.

When to contact your doctor

Leg cramps during pregnancy are generally harmless and self-limiting.

You must, however, contact your doctor if:

  • The pain is severe or persistent.
  • Your legs are considerably swollen.
  • You notice enlarged veins on your leg or feet.
  • You observe any change in color, temperature, or sensations over the legs.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/treating-muscle-cramps-during-pregnancy/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14170-leg-cramps

https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/leg-cramps-during-pregnancy

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/leg-cramps.html

https://www.webmd.com/baby/leg-cramps