You’ve done everything you’re supposed to. You’ve started a routine, excising close, but not too Cloe, to bedtime, drinking calming tea before you settle in. You lay down, ready to enjoy a rejuvenating night of sleep, when it hits you. A shooting pain travelling up your leg as your muscles tense into a painful cramp. The pain I intense enough to rid you of any sort of fatigue you had prior, and now you’re wondering if this whole sleep thing really just is a distant fantasy.
Leg cramps are incredibly common during pregnancy. Many women get them, and they tend to occur during the second and third trimesters. Doctors aren’t entirely sure why it happens, but it probably has to do with two things: First, your growing uterus is displacing a LOT of stuff in your abdomen, not the least of which are a lot of nerves. All that movement may be resulting in some painful leg cramping. Secondly, circulation. You know how sometimes you wake up and one or both of your legs has fallen asleep? Yea, that’s a circulation issue and it’s pretty common in pregnancy. The same thing might be the culprit behind leg cramps.
So, you know (sort of) what’s causing it. Is there anything you can do? Thankfully, yes.
- Stretch those legs. If you have any dance training, now is the time to use it. Stretching your legs out in front of you, flex your toes back, stretching that back leg muscle. Don’t point your toes! For the love of all that is good in this world, just don’t. It will make the problem worse and it will hurt so very badly. If you can manoeuvre into a standing position, lean down to ouch your toes, and try to lift your toes off the ground, rocking back on your heels. This last bit can get a little acrobatic, so be careful. All that Relaxin in your joints can make you clumsy, and bystanders get really freaked out when pregnant women fall. Be careful.
- Take some magnesium. Remember that we still don’t know what causes leg cramps, but what little research we do have tells us that magnesium supplements can help prevent leg cramps. Possibly with magic. If you’re going to take the supplement as a pill, make sure you get your provider’s ok first. If you aren’t wanting to take a pill, there a lot of foods out there with a good amount of magnesium, and a lot of them, like nuts, can help you get the protein you need as well.
- Drink water. This is good advice no matter where in pregnancy you are, and even if you’re not pregnant, really. You should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water. Drink until you’re peeing clear and you feel like you live in the bathroom. Fluids, fluids, fluids. Not only is this good for the baby, making sure that there is plenty of amniotic fluid, that baby’s body is staying hydrated, it can also help mom by preventing cramping in the legs. So drink up!
- Exercise. This piece of advice shows up in a lot of articles, and for good reason. Exercise is good for you. Being active a good thing. Keeping your body moving during pregnancy promotes good circulation, but also improves posture and may take some of the pressure of nerves and ligaments that could be contributing to your leg cramps.
- Move slowly. Like round ligament pain in the first trimester, moving too quickly can set off leg cramps. Be deliberate and careful in your motions, making sure you move slowly, especially when getting up from a reclined or prone position.
- Apply heat. A heating pad may help the muscles relax, which is what you are aiming for.
- Massage. If you have a partner, try to talk them into doing this. Massage can help work out the cramps in your legs, and is especially helpful when used with a few drops of lavender oil to encourage the muscles (and you!) to relax.
- Sleep Correctly. You know where we’re going with this. The way you sleep is so important. Sleep on your side, your left side if possible, and put a pillow between your knees and along your back for support. A pillow can also be placed under your leg to elevate it if there is need, or to make it easier to flex your feet while trying to get the cramp to go away. Keeping your legs elevated while you rest is a good idea anyway, if you are having a continuous problem with leg cramps. If you have a C-shaped pillow, fold it in half and put it beneath your legs while you watch TV or sit in bed.
When to be concerned
Leg cramping is annoying, but it usually isn’t anything to be concerned about. It’s pretty normal and typically goes away on its own. However, if your pain is severe and frequent, and is unterrupting your ability to live you rday-to-day life, or if your legs are warm, red, or swollen to the touch, it may be something to talk to your health care provider about. Even if you just need reassurance that your experience is normal, talk to you rprodier. That’s what they are there for, and they will help you.
Leg cramps are obnoxious, it’s true, especially when they seem to come out of noehwere and strike out of the blue. It is something you will probably have to deal with, but you certainly don’t have to suffer too much, or suffer without a fight! Try a few of these tips and see if you can’t defeat the cramps in your legs and get a good night’s sleep without the pain of muscle crap.