There is no single, specific reason for leg cramps during pregnancy and can vary from person to person. They could be due to an expanding belly that causes the muscles to strain as there is additional pressure on the main veins in the legs. They could also be due to swelling from fluid accumulation in the legs. Leg cramps usually develop in the second or third trimester and may get worse as the pregnancy progresses. Though leg pain and cramps do not occur at a specific time, they are most noticeable during the night, disrupting a good night’s sleep.
The good news, however, is that leg cramps need not be a major concern and can be managed with a little effort. Cramps usually occur in both the calf and the foot. The pain can be severe enough to wake you up or mild and throb for a few minutes. However severe the pain, here are a few steps you can take to reduce the pain.1 2
How To Ease Painful Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?
1. Stretch, Relax, And Exercise
Stretching exercises bring in a lot of relief to cramped legs and are highly recommended to loosen the calf muscles. Simple stretching exercises that help you feel the stretch right up to your calf muscles can help you a lot. Though a lot of these exercise videos are available on the Internet, it is always better to ask your doctor or physiotherapist to teach you the correct methods. 3
2. Stay Hydrated
Your body needs water for two people now as your baby will be absorbing most of the water you consume. Deprived the body of water may result in cramps as the cells are dehydrated and depleted of essential salts. So, drink enough water to stay hydrated. This can help keep cramps away.4
3. Supplement Effectively
Deficiencies in magnesium and calcium can also cause leg cramps. Your body needs the correct dosage of supplements based on medical advice. And magnesium, to a great extent, helps alleviate leg cramps. For those who do not like to take tablets, a magnesium cream option is also available.5
4. Let The Blood Circulate
Being pregnant is no reason to stay idle unless advised by the doctor. You need to stay as active as your body lets you be, but don’t go for high-intensity activity. The need is for easy-to-do activities, easy-to-play non-straining sports, and all your regular chores. Not only will you be in good health, you’ll also be boosting your blood flow and cardiovascular health.This helps ease or prevent leg cramps to a huge extent.6
5. Wear Good Shoes And Take Warm Baths
Comfortable shoes, preferably flat, wide, and easy to wear, with soft soles are recommended. This will provide you with some relief from cramping. Also, a warm bath will help relax your muscles and alleviate stress while contributing to added blood flow. If not a proper bath, you can try soaking your feet in warm salt water to soothe your leg muscles. This, with a nice mild massage, is sure to help.7
6. Put Your Feet Up
Try to put up your feet when you sit or lie down to reduce swelling in your feet. This will reduce the swelling and also alleviate some pressure on the feet and legs that can cause fatigue and possible cramps. This is one of the easiest to follow and a common advice given by most doctors to relieve pain or keep away those leg cramps in pregnancy.8
But remember, the good news is that these cramps are only temporary and easily manageable. Let them not dampen the joy of being pregnant!
|↑1||Hensley, Jennifer G. “Leg cramps and restless legs syndrome during pregnancy.” Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health 54.3 (2009): 211-218. APA|
|↑2||Salvi, Vinita. The Pregnancy Handbook for Indian Moms: A Doctor’s Answers to All Your Questions.Penguin UK, 2013|
|↑3||Webster, Irina. Dr. Healthy Pregnancy From A To Z: An Expectant Parent’s Guide To Wellness.Australian Self Publishing Group, 2014.|
|↑4||Shahraki, Azar Danesh. “Effects of Vitamin E, Calcium Carbonate and Milk of Magnesium on Muscular Cramps in Pregnant Women Azar Danesh Shahraki.” J. Med. Sci 6.6 (2006): 979-983.|
|↑5||Mansouri, Ameneh et al. “The Effect of Vitamin D and Calcium plus Vitamin D on Leg Cramps in Pregnant Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences 22 (2017): 24. PMC. Web. 24 July 2017|
|↑6, ↑7, ↑8||Page, Ernest W., and Emery P. Page. “Leg Cramps in Pregnancy: Etiology and treatment.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 1.1 (1953): 94-100|