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Leg cramps

What are they? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What are leg cramps?

Leg cramps usually occur in the third trimester and can strike at any time and are very painful and debilitating while they last. Often they're worse at night.

Leg cramps are common in pregnancy, although the reason why they're more prevalent in mums-to-be isn't totally understood. There are theories that it's to do with a lack of calcium, magnesium and and/or vitamin C – and it can't hurt to make sure your diet is rich in these in any case.
 
Some experts think sluggish circulation, brought on by pregnancy hormones, also plays a part; others believe that your increasing weight in pregnancy, which also has an impact on circulation, could be responsible.
 
Leg cramps usually occur in the third trimester and can strike at any time and are very painful and debilitating while they last. Often they're worse at night.

What are the symptoms of Leg cramps?

Seizure of a muscle, which is acutely painful and can last for several minutes at a time. The legs may ache for up to 20 minutes after the muscle has relaxed.

What are the treatments and remedies of Leg cramps?

The usual treatment is to try to stretch the affected muscle by holding the tips of your toes, flexing your foot to make a 90° angle to your shin and holding this position. However, this may be impossible as your pregnancy progresses and your toes become a distant memory! Ask your partner to perform the technique for you if it happens while you're in bed. If you're standing, though, you can bend your other leg, stretch the affected leg out in front of you and flex your foot upwards until you feel the stretch in your calf muscle.
 
Alternatively, lunge forward on the unaffected leg, with the cramped leg stretch out behind but with a flat foot.
 
Some expectant mums find massaging the muscle brings relief; others find it much too painful to touch.
 
Try to keep your circulation up by moving your legs and feet when sitting or standing: circle your ankles and flex and release your foot muscles whenever you think of it.
 
If you have persistent pain in a calf muscle, accompanied by hot or red skin in the same area, seek medical advice immediately, as these can be signs of thrombosis.

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net

 

Leg cramps