Leg cramps in pregnancy

Leg cramps in pregnancy become more common during the second and third trimester

At a glance

  • Leg cramps occur when the muscles in your legs seize up
  • Can last from a few seconds to 10 minute

What are leg cramps?

Leg cramps occur when the muscles in your legs seize up causing cramp and pain in the leg to occur. You will usually feel cramps in your calf muscles although they can also affect your thighs and feet.

Cramps can last from a few seconds up 10 minutes and the majority of leg cramps will occur at night during sleep.

Why do I get leg cramps in pregnancy?

During your pregnancy, your body will be going through a number of changes that can increase your chances of experiencing leg cramps.

You might experience leg cramps in pregnancy if your body has a shortage of nutrients and salts in your bloodstream. In a similar way to anaemia, your baby will be taking more of the nutrients from your blood which can leave you a little short on what you need yourself.

You’re also more likely to experience leg cramps during your second trimester and third trimester as the size and weight of your baby puts added strain on your muscles and your womb puts more pressure on the veins providing blood to your leg muscles.

How can I avoid getting leg cramps in pregnancy?

There are a few things you can get into the habit of doing to reduce the chance of you experiencing leg cramps in pregnancy, including:

  • Taking supplements to ensure your body is getting enough salts and nutrients for both you and your baby. It is important to get your doctor's advice on supplements to take in pregnancy. 
  • Engaging in daily exercises to help improve the circulation in your legs muscles. You can try routines similar to what’s recommended on long haul flights including bending, stretching and rotating each foot around 30 times

  • Having a warm bath before bed to help open up blood vessels and improve circulation to your legs

  • Ensure you have enough space in bed to move around at night and try raising your feet slightly on a small pillow

How can I get rid of leg cramps?

If you’re experience leg cramps, try and stretch your muscles to relieve the pain. To stretch your calf muscles, stand on the edge of a ledge or step and slowly lower your heels so they are below the level of the step. Hold this position for a few seconds before bringing your heel back up to the starting position.

If the pain is constant and doesn’t go away or if you notice any swelling or tenderness, you should contact your doctor and let them know. In very rare cases, it’s possible that pregnant women can develop blood clots in their leg veins which will need emergency treatment.

At a glance

  • Leg cramps occur when the muscles in your legs seize up
  • Can last from a few seconds to 10 minute

Pregnancy conditions