Pregnancy Related Information

Leg Cramps in Pregnancy

Leg cramps during pregnancy are common, often occurring at night during the second and third trimester. The exact cause of leg cramps during pregnancy isn’t clear, as there can be many factors in play.

Leg cramps are a sudden tightening of muscles, which can cause intense pain. The muscles may tighten for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Dehydration, Lack of fluids (water)
  • Injury
  • Muscle strain
  • Staying in the same position for a long period of time
  • Blood circulation problems or pressure on the nerves in the spine

The reasons for increased leg cramps during pregnancy aren’t clear. They may be caused by:

  • Changes in blood circulation during pregnancy
  • The stress on your leg muscles of carrying the extra weight in pregnancy.
  • The pressure of the growing baby on the nerves and blood vessels that go to your legs
  • All this means is your tired leg muscles may seize up and cramp in protest, especially during your second and third trimester. The pain can wake you from a deep sleep.

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to increase circulation in the legs and feet and help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy:

  • Calf stretches. Tight muscles restrict circulation. Stretching before bed may help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy. Stand at arm’s length from a wall, place your hands on the wall in front of you and move your right foot behind your left foot. Slowly bend your left leg forward, keeping your right knee straight and your right heel on the floor. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, being careful to keep your back straight and your hips forward. Don’t rotate your feet inward or outward and avoid pointing your toes. Switch legs and repeat.
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause leg cramps. Drinking plenty of water is beneficial to the body. If you’re worried about having to get up in the night, try drinking almost nothing for an hour or two before bedtime. Just make sure you drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water during the day. If your urine is dark yellow, it may mean that you’re not getting enough water.
  • Exercise. For a healthy pregnancy Walking, Swimming and prenatal yoga are great ways to keep in shape and prepare for a more natural birth. Regular physical activity increases strength and flexibility which may help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy. Before you begin an exercise program, make sure you have your health care provider’s OK.
  • Rest and Relax! If you are practising prenatal yoga then you probably love the relaxation part at the end! Try and give this to yourself at home by playing gentle and soft music to relax to. Always rest on your left side to make sure the baby is receiving optimum oxygen supplies
  • Look after your feet. Daily foot exercises. Bend and stretch each foot vigorously up and down 30 times. Then rotate each foot eight times one way and eight times the other way .
  • Move. Try not to stand for long periods or sit with your legs crossed. Reduce the length of time sitting in one position. Pregnant women normally experience leg cramps in their third trimester. To ease the discomfort of leg cramps, avoid sitting for long periods of time. When you are sitting, avoid crossing your legs. If you are at a desk, do light exercises each day to help keep the blood circulating in your legs.
  • Receive a massage. Massage will increase circulation, therefore moving toxins out of the muscles and bringing nutrients in. Strategic massage techniques will loosen tight muscles that cause the onset of cramping in the calves. Our therapists highly recommend Fisiocrem, this can be applied directly to the calves as to assist in minimising leg cramps.
  • Food intake. Your diet also plays an important role in preventing leg cramps. The changes in the diet may not help everyone, but it does help some people. If it doesn’t relieve the discomfort of the leg cramps, you will still benefit health wise. Talk to your health care provider about the possible benefits of increasing the correct nutrient rich foods in your diet. You might also consider eating more magnesium-rich foods, such as whole grains, beans, dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Foods that are rich in potassium, are also great for relieving leg cramps. Try to add potassium-rich foods to your diet, potassium is naturally found in fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. Check with your Doctor before making any big changes.
  • Choose proper footwear. Choose shoes with comfort, support and utility in mind. Good shoes support muscle alignment and balance, and increase the likelihood of an even footfall, avoiding any strain on the ankles and knees. At night-time:
  • Have a warm bath before going to bed. Warm muscles are relaxed muscles!.
    Try not to sleep with your toes pointing downwards.
  • Pregnancy Pillow. Sleeping with a pregnancy pillow expertly designed to help support the wight of the baby and to give a more comfortable nights sleep. In the latter stages of pregnancy the weight of the baby can twist the spine and exert more then normal pressure on surrounding muscles. The result can be back pain and severe discomfort.
    Lie on your side and place the pillow under the tunny where the specifically contoured shape will gently suport the weight of the baby and take the strain off the back.
    Dentons pregnancy pillows are available in-store
    dentons-pregnancy-pillow fisiocrem

If a leg cramp strikes, stretch the calf muscle on the affected side. Walking or jiggling and then elevating your legs may help keep the leg cramp from returning. A hot shower, warm bath or ice massage also may help
Apply a warm compress to the muscle cramp. You can use a warm soak or a wheat heat pack. Many people soak in a warm bath with epsom salts to relieve muscle cramps in the legs and feet. Epsom Salts are an affordable and easy way to enhance cleansing and to relieve stress. The high magnesium content within Epsom Salts help to draw acids through the skin and therefore mostly used for bathing in. Epsom salt baths are well known for their amazing and effective way to relieve aching limbs, reduce muscle strain and are excellent in helping with back pain.

If your muscle pain is constant and not just an occasional cramp, or if you notice swelling or tenderness in your leg, contact your doctor. As with any pain, it is a signal that something needs to be addressed. No pain needs to be tolerated, it is possible to work together, as a Team, with your Health Care Provider to bring about optimum health and pain reduction.

In recognition of us all being individuals and each having different bodies and therefore differing health requirements, all information provided is a general recommendation only and not a prescription. All health related information and subsequent questions must be followed up with your own physician.

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