Leg cramping is a very common condition yet harmless. It happens when muscles in your legs suddenly become tight. Most commonly, leg cramps occur around calf muscles. Restless legs or leg cramping can also be termed as ‘Charley Horses’ when involuntary muscle contraction occurs, particularly in calf muscles.
For some women, leg cramps typically start in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Sometimes, these cramps are due to muscle strains on your legs because of the gained weight of a growing fetus or due to compressed veins; your baby might be sitting. A huge chance is your body might be running low on calcium, potassium or magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is the biggest cause of leg cramps.
For some pregnant women, leg cramps get worse at night, consequently interrupting their sleep, affecting their quality of life, and making being pregnant tougher.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclaimer for more information.
Why do women feel severe Leg Cramps during pregnancy
Although restless legs are a very common symptom during pregnancy, for some people, it triggers at night even without being pregnant. However, painful leg cramps are most commonly related to pregnancy hormones, compressing the blood vessels in pregnant woman’s legs.
The most significant reasons for pregnancy leg cramps are:
- Leg muscles become sore because of serious physical activity like exercise, running, etc.
- Standing for a long duration.
- Pregnancy Hormones
- Deficiency of essential Vitamins
- Poor blood circulation
- Lack of stretching/exercise
- Drinking less water
Legs cramping is one of the irritating symptoms that happen during pregnancy. It gets crazy sometimes at night, and the discomfort is so much that you can’t even sleep or rest peacefully.
Sometimes too much walking in your third trimester or physical fatigue or dehydration can lead to leg cramping.
How to prevent and survive Leg cramps during Pregnancy
You can’t take medications for random aches and discomfort during pregnancy unless it is REALLY needed or prescribed by your OBGYN.
For cramping, you don’t have to take any medicines; just a few remedies may help you sleep comfortably through the night.
1. Stay Hydrated
Water regulates so many systems around our bodies – and we get lazy sometimes in staying hydrated.
Whenever I complained to my midwife about my legs cramping, she would ask: “Are you drinking enough water”.
Sometimes you don’t really feel like drinking water. You just don’t like the taste. Thanks to pregnancy hormones. Taste aversion is a real thing. You can drink water in some other form. Staying hydrated is essential, especially during pregnancy.
You can try other hydrating drinks like
- Vitamin water – Tropica flavor is the best, hands down.
- Gatorade My favorite flavor is lemon-lime.
- Coconut water
- Even with so many options, water is ultimately the best.
Sometimes you are already juggling up with so much while pregnant that you tend to forget about water. Just try not to be too busy to drink water.
If that’s the case, keep a water bottle around you. Preferably on each level if you have to move up and down. Sometimes you feel just too lazy to get up and go to your kitchen to drink water.
Try not to drink water that is too cold or too hot. Just room temperature water should be fine.
If you are pregnant, try to reduce your caffeine intake.
2. Take essential Prenatal Vitamins, Magnesium/Potassium
Lack of magnesium or potassium might also be the reason for leg cramps or leg pain during pregnancy.
Magnesium is known to improve muscle health. Eating magnesium and potassium-rich food while you are pregnant or in everyday life other than pregnancy is the best choice for your health.
Banana is a rich source of potassium. Eating a banana with a cup of milk would certainly help.
If you have muscle twitching during pregnancy most likely in the second and third trimester, you should take magnesium tablets if your OBGYN gives you a green signal about taking magnesium supplements other than your prenatal vitamins. Just take the recommended dosage.
You can take potassium for your leg cramps if you often experience restless legs other than pregnancy.
What is safe medication during pregnancy? Find out what medicines are considered safe for the mom and the fetus.
3. Yoga Pose or Stretching
If cramping gets worse at night, you should try this yoga pose. It worked for me 100%, every time I woke up due to a restless leg in the middle of the night.
Practice Reclining Hero Pose for leg cramps.
It is a modified form of the reclining hero pose.
Sit up on your buttocks – legs folded in a comfortable place (floor or a bed). Place your hands on the back of the pelvis and release your lower back and upper buttocks. Then finish reclining, onto the floor, a support blanket or a pillow. Use as much height as you need to make the position reasonably comfortable.
Recline unless you feel stretched in your legs. You can only move your lower legs outside if you feel comfortable doing it. It takes a lot of flexibility, though. Stay in this position for a couple of minutes (as demonstrated in the image below) and relax.
Try to breathe in and out (inhale and exhale) as long as you are comfortable staying in that position. By the time you get up, your legs and muscles are relaxed.
Caution: If you have any serious condition of the back, knee, or ankle, avoid this pose.
Due to the baby’s weight on your belly, you won’t be able to stay in this position for a long time.
However, if you cannot try this pose due to medical reasons, in that case, random leg stretching may help. Sit up and straighten your legs. Try touching your toes with your hands by leaning forward.
4. Massage your legs
Massage is a great way to relax your muscles. It is known to be one of the most effective ways of relieving cramps.
If you are lucky enough to have someone massage your legs, you can use essential oils in the middle of the night. Generally, olive oil works great.
However, you may also try compression socks to relieve leg pain. These socks help blood circulation and work well, even during postpartum.
5. Food that helps relieve leg cramps
Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet can help. Food rich in calcium and potassium greatly benefits you and the baby.
Besides drinking enough water, eating bananas and milk daily helps significantly with leg cramps.
Dates, figs, coconut, almonds, walnuts, and raisins should be stocked up for day and night snacking. Check out the best pregnancy snacks you should always keep handy.
Iron, magnesium, essential vitamins, and Calcium-rich food would help relieve muscle pain.
After delivery, ensure you are eating a nutritious and healthy diet to nurture your baby.
6. Take Prenatal Vitamins at night
Prenatal vitamins are essential while you are pregnant and until you are breastfeeding. You need to take your vitamins regardless. During pregnancy, it is recommended to take your prenatal vitamins at night – ideally with a snack.
Surprisingly, it helps minimize cramping at night significantly.
Moreover, too much laziness/less movement in your lifestyle can even slow blood circulation. Walk as much as you are comfortable with. Stretching can help in reducing leg cramps. Stay active, and hydrated, and listen to your body. When your body tells you that you feel tired, sit down, put your feet up and rest until you get your energy back.
Leg cramping is a common pregnancy discomfort. However, if you experience restless legs even when you are not pregnant, increase your water intake, and you may want to get your vitamin D levels checked. For some people, leg cramping is one of the significant symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
7. Using a Leg Elevation pillow
This elevation pillow is designed to relieve restless legs by improving blood circulation, relieving swelling, and taking the pressure off your legs and knees. Moreover, it can also be used for back support during pregnancy.