Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

Your Feet and Legs: Leg Cramps During Pregnancy
Your body undergoes remarkable changes during pregnancy.  These natural changes often affect your feet and legs as they are required to adapt to surging hormones in your body and to support increasing weight during pregnancy.  A common lower extremity symptom is leg cramps during pregnancy.  While most changes typically resolve after you have your baby, there are safe and effective treatments available during pregnancy to ease your symptoms.

Leg Cramps
Leg cramps affect around one-third of pregnant women especially during their second and third trimesters.  These sudden and painful spasms involve the calf muscles (gastrocnemius) behind your legs.  Muscle spasms can be precipitated by hormonal changes and mineral deficiencies such as low amounts of calcium.  During pregnancy, a hormone (relaxin) that allows your uterus to relax and prevent premature contractions is also responsible for decreasing the amount of calcium in your muscles.  In addition, your growing baby further deprives you of circulating calcium.  Low potassium and magnesium can also worsen symptoms.

There are simple measures to help prevent leg cramps.  Be sure to eat a well-balanced diet with adequate calcium, and remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.  Avoid sitting with your legs crossed, and avoid standing for long periods of time.  Stretch your calf muscles every day and especially before bed.  If approved by your provider, regular exercise such as walking can help improve circulation and diminish the spasms of your leg muscles.

If you experience a leg cramp, immediately stretch the calf muscle by bringing your foot up toward the front of your leg and gently massage the muscle.  Try to increase circulation by walking or by rotating your ankles clockwise and counter clockwise.  Warmth from a hot water bottle may also relieve the pain.

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