Leg cramps in pregnancy
Although a lesser known pregnancy symptom, there is no doubt that for those who suffer from it, leg cramping can become an uncomfortable nuisance. Mainly occurring at night, leg cramping while pregnant is effectively when a combination of factors lead your muscles to seize up and cause the shooting pain commonly known as cramp.
When does leg cramping usually begin?
Leg cramps can happen at any time during pregnancy but most commonly during the latter stages, during the third trimester in particular.
Why does leg cramping occur?
As your baby grows and you increase in weight your legs are bearing an ever present strain that they are not normally used to. They are also having pressure put on them due to the size of your growing uterus pressuring the veins leading downwards through your legs. This all combines with one of the ever present pregnancy hormones, progesterone, to affect the muscle tone in your legs making them more susceptible. Leg cramps are thought to happen more at night when the muscles are relaxed and can very much catch people by surprise and rouse them from a peaceful sleep (as peaceful as one can sleep while pregnant anyway!).
Are there any other reasons I am suffering from leg cramp?
Some people have suggested leg cramps are more common in pregnancy due to a shortage of calcium and magnesium in the body, as the growing foetus takes what it needs to thrive, leaving mum-to-be somewhat lacking in these nutrients. In this case a simple supplement may be enough to help redress the balance. Always make sure though that you check with your midwife when taking any additional vitamins or supplements during your pregnancy.
What can I do to help myself if I get leg cramps during pregnancy?
As most leg cramping while pregnant happens at night, a warm bath may help relax everything down before bed. Try lighting a couple of lavender candles round the bath and popping on some soothing music to really help you chill out. When in bed, try to keep your feet slightly elevated, on a pillow, and if a cramp bothers you stretch the muscle out right away by straightening your leg and bringing the heel down and the toes up (this may even make things worse at first but will help the cramp retreat more quickly). Sometimes applying a gentle pressure to the area also helps so you or a partner could try a bit of massage. Some people find walking about, in order to stretch the muscle out, is also beneficial. It's also important to stay hydrated and wear supportive footwear to ease the symptoms.
Daytime tips for leg cramping in pregnancy
Some expectant mothers swear by regular exercises during the day such as stretching the foot out (as above) up to twenty times in succession, twice a day, while rotating the ankles twenty times in each direction a couple of times a day may also help you. When it comes to general posture, midwives will always tell you never to sit or lie with your feet or legs crossed. Aside from that, gentle exercise is good for avoiding cramps in general and keeping the blood pumping effectively.
If you do find your legs are cramping regularly and if you have any swelling or redness in the leg, seek medical advice from your doctor.