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 the involuntary muscle contraction occurs particularly in calf muscles.
For some women, leg cramps get worse at night, consequently, interrupting their sleep, and affecting the quality of life.
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Reasons for Leg Cramps during pregnancy
Restless legs is a very common symptom during pregnancy, for some people it triggers at night even without being pregnant. The most significant reasons are:
- Leg muscles become sore because of some serious physical activity like exercise, running, etc.
- Standing for 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 also lead to leg cramping.
How to 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 on staying hydrated.
Every time I had complained to my midwife about my legs cramping and she always asked: “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 all the way to your kitchen to drink water.
Try not to drink water that is too cold or too hot. Just a 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 crampings if they happen quite often other than pregnancy.
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 wake up due to restless leg in the middle of the night.
Practice Reclining Hero Pose for leg cramps
It is a modified form of 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, either onto the floor or a support blanket or a pillow. Use as much height as you need to make the position reasonably comfortable.
Recline unless you feel stretch in your legs. You can move your lower legs outside only 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 your comfortable in the position. By the time you get up, you legs muscles are relaxed.
Caution: If you have any serious condition of a back, knee or ankle, avoid this pose.
Due to your baby 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 legs 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, in the middle of the night – You can use essential oils. Generally, olive oil works great.
However, you may also try compression socks to relieve leg pain. These socks would help with blood circulation and works very well, even during postpartum.
5. Food that helps relieving leg cramps
Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet can actually help. Food that is rich in Calcium, Potassium is of great benefit to you and the baby.
Besides drinking enough water, eating bananas and milk every day helps significantly with leg cramps.
Dates, figs, coconut, almonds, walnuts, and raisins should be stocked up for day and night snacking.
Iron, magnesium, essential vitamins, and Calcium-rich food would help in relieving muscle pain.
After delivery, make sure you are eating 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 help minimize cramping at night significantly.
Moreover, too much laziness/less movement in your lifestyle can even slow down blood circulation. Walk as much as you are comfortable with. Stretching can help in reducing leg cramps. Stay active, 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 Leg Elevation pillow
This elevation pillow is designed to relieve restless legs, by improving blood circulation, relieve swelling, and take the pressure off your legs and knees. Moreover, it can also be used for back support during pregnancy.
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