How to Prevent Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?

Pregnant Woman With Leg Cramps


If you suddenly wake up to searing and painful spasms around your calves at night, you’re probably experiencing leg cramps. These are normal occurrence when the body does not get the right amount of water intake during the day; but if you’re experiencing this during pregnancy, you must be extra careful and should always go down to the root of the cause.

What are the Causes of Leg Cramps during Pregnancy?

Leg cramps or leg pain during pregnancy is very common. This usually starts during the second trimester and seem to get worse as the pregnancy progresses from then onwards. While nobody has a relevant and specific answer, it can happen out of one of the reasons or a combination of probable reasons.

  • Fatigue or tiredness from carrying excess pregnancy weight is a common cause of leg cramps in obese people. So when it comes to pregnancy the same rules apply. The weight issues become important when the mother to be, does not incorporate a proper vegetarian diet. It is said tha
    t only consuming 300 more calories a day can suffice for the requirements of the growing baby in the mother’s womb. Often this is misinterpreted into eating more fats, which adds more bulk than necessary.
  • Your expanding uterus puts a pressure on the veins that transfer blood from your feet to your heart. That results in obstruction of blood circulation and hence the cramps. This is a common phenomenon that non pregnant people also experience. One might observe that when people sit cross legged for a long time or put pressure on one limb for a longer time, they can’t feel anything for a while until the circulation of blood comes back. The same thing happens for women who are pregnant.
  • A diet that contains an excess of phosphorus but lesser calcium or magnesium contents, which, in turn, causes a shortage of nutrients and salts that circulates with your blood. Also this shortage occurs because your baby is feeding on your supplies leaving very little for your own use.
  • A hormone called progesterone affects the muscles of your legs. This hormone is believed to be responsible for leg cramps during pregnancy. While these cramps can occur during the day, it mostly occurs at night, owing to the fatigue and water retention, ruining a good night’s sleep for everyone including the pregnant mother.
  • Sometimes narrowing of arteries can cause cramp like pain. An extreme case of arteriosclerosis can cause cramps in the legs. Sometimes this severe pain can be triggered by exercise. This usually stops when you slow down and stop working out for a while.
  • Compression of nerves in the spine also referred to as lumber stenosis can cause cramp like pain in your legs. The pain becomes acute when you walk a lot. So if you are having these pains just take complete rest. However, little physical activity is essential when you are pregnant. So try to walk in a flexed position as if you are pulling a cart to reduce pain. Consult your doctor regarding the posture and take adequate treatment for the pain to maximize comfort.
  • Having diuretics and medications for blood pressure can cause mineral depletion. Too little of calcium, potassium and magnesium can cause leg cramps.

Symptoms of Leg Cramps:

Muscle cramps usually disappear on their own. Especially, cramps that happen in the leg muscles or in the calf muscles. You may get a sudden and sharp pain and can feel a lump of tissue under your skin. Muscle cramps are rarely very serious and usually disappear on their own. However you must visit the doctor if the cramps cause severe discomfort:

  • If there is redness and swelling.
  • If cramps occur due to muscle weakness.
  • If the pain happens frequently and it doesn’t improve with self-care.
  • Also ask the doctor for advice if the pain doesn’t happen due strenuous exercise.

Answer all the questions your doctor asks accurately so the diagnosis is perfect. When a proper diagnosis is done, it is easier to adopt an effective treatment.

Risk Factors:

There are many factors that increase the chance of cramps. They are:

  • People who are higher on the age bar experience cramps more often. So if you have your pregnancy after 30 years the chances of muscle and leg cramp increases.
  • Those who become fatigued and dehydrated while exercising in the warm weather have muscle cramps.

Medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders, and problems in liver, kidney and nerve cause cramps more often.

[ Read: Wearing Bra During Pregnancy ]

What to Do When You Have One?

First things first, always know the solutions when facing a problem.

  • The most immediate relief should be to try standing up and preferably on a cold surface. This can be done more often than not stop the spasms.
  • Alternatively, relieve your pain by straightening up your leg and then gently flex your toes and ankles back and forth towards your shins multiple times. Apply local heat for added relief near the areas. This may hurt initially but will help reduce the spasms gradually.
  • In some rare cases the pain is caused by blood clots and in that case if none of the above helps then massaging or applying local heat would be a bad idea. This could aggravate the pain and it can spread to the other parts of the body.
  • When you feel better it is advisable to walk around a bit to let the circulation ease out properly. Going back to sleep often makes the chances of recurrence faster.