Leg Cramps During Pregnancy: Causes And Remedies

Leg cramps are very common among pregnant women and more than half of them suffer from it during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Although leg cramps can attack you at any hour of the day, most of the expectant mothers suffer from cramps at night. This can obviously make pregnancy nights unnecessarily difficult and painful.

Leg cramps are basically contraction of muscles in your legs triggering pain in your calves at first which ultimately radiates through all of your leg. The spasms in the leg can become excruciatingly painful during the night if the cramps last longer.

While there are no major causes of leg cramps, dehydration, less exercise, weight gain and less nutrition can be related to it.

Cramps in legs during pregnancy are usually not very severe but if the pain becomes extreme, it can also be a sign of another problem. So, it is better to bring some medical attention from your prenatal caretaker regarding the problem when you start getting cramps.

Causes of leg cramps during pregnancy

The immediate cause of leg cramps is the spasm and tightening of leg muscles which stiffens your legs and toes and sometimes even blocks the blood circulation in the blood area. Needless to say, it is very painful. However, there is no known major cause of leg cramps although the following points definitely have some say in it.

1. Dehydration

Dehydration can build stress and fatigue while also weakening your body. This stress and weakness can easily lead to leg cramps.

2. Improper diet

Diets which are not nutritious can not only hamper the growth of your baby, it also weakens your body and keeps you unhealthy. This ultimately results to cramps during pregnancy.

3. Stiff muscles

Sometimes, lack of exercise can stiff your muscles which in turn trigger leg cramps.

4. Stress

Having a lot of stress during pregnancy can hamper you mentally as well as physically. Moreover, the same stress built in your legs can give you very painful leg cramps during pregnancy.

5. Weight gain

During the second and third trimester of pregnancy, your body gains significant weight. This weight gain can bring stress and weaken your legs which need to carry the extra weight which becomes a reason for your leg cramps during pregnancy.

Symptoms of cramps in legs during pregnancy

More than half of expectant mothers suffer from leg cramps and the cramps last from a few seconds to hours.

The longer the cramps, it’s aftermaths last longer, i.e., painful legs for hours after cramps. The following are major symptoms shown during a leg cramp.

  • Sudden pain in leg muscles due to involuntary muscle contraction.
  • Muscles tighten and legs and toes become stiff.
  • Sometimes redness can appear in the area of cramp.
  • Long lasting pain in legs after an episode of cramp.
  • Excruciating pain if the cramp last longer.
  • Weak and shrinking legs.

Remedies for leg cramps during pregnancy

While leg cramp can produce excruciating pain, it generally is not that harmful. There are cases of pregnant women getting leg cramps during sleep as well. But fear not! Simple home remedies and treatment can be used to get rid of the pain in the leg. Here are a few that you can try for yourself if you are suffering:

1. Regular stretches

Stretching your legs time and again every day in moderate amount can help your muscles relax which ultimately prevents you from having leg cramps at all. Stretching muscles can also make you active and relax you which can be very beneficial during pregnancy.

2. Exercise

Your pregnancy should not bar you from having those thirty minutes of exercise every day. When you exercise regularly, although it is mild and only for thirty minutes, your body becomes healthier and your muscles get relaxed. This helps to prevent leg cramps and you can

3. Keep your weight in check

During the second and third trimester of pregnancy, your gain weight as the baby grows. This adds extra weight on your legs which can stress them out and lead to leg cramps. To check this, you must be aware of your weight gain and balance it with healthy food. When you keep your weight in check, this can lift off a lot of weight from your legs preventing you from having leg cramps.

4. Use proper footwear

Wearing proper footwear such as soft slippers or shoes with a little alleviation at your heels can help you relax your feet. Also make sure that your footwear is warm and avoid using heels during pregnancy. Proper shoes not only help you have comfortable walks, they relax your feet and easily prevent from leg cramps.

5. Change position

Your days may require you to stand or sit in the same position for a long time regarding what your job is. However, you must change your positions time to time to stretch and ease your leg muscles.

If your job requires you to sit all day long, try standing up and walking time and again while you are pregnant. And if you need to stand all day for your job, take time to sit down and relax your feet.

Also, while sleeping, try to alleviate your feet by putting a small pillow or blanket. Note that the alleviation should not be more than 20 cm. This can get your blood circulation going on and helps lessen stress of all day from your legs.

6. Drink enough fluids

As one of the causes of leg cramps is dehydration, there is no better remedy than drinking a fair amount of water, or fluids during pregnancy. Try to drink 8-10 glasses of water every single day and if plain water does not appeal to you, try having soup, juices, infused water or any type of fluid by checking their sugar content.

7. Get prenatal massages

Getting prenatal massages not only help you savor your joyous pregnancy phase, it also helps your body relax. This also includes your legs, which means no leg cramps during the nights or any other time of the day.

8. Take vitamins

Sometimes, you can get leg cramps due to insufficient nutrition in your body. So, take good care of your diet and add more vitamins and proteins to it. Moreover, having enough vitamin intakes help you lead a healthy pregnancy period. This also helps in keeping your muscles healthy and preventing leg cramps.

When taking required vitamins, you must get permission from your doctor as you have a different body condition while you are pregnant. Some over the counter vitamins can also have negative effect on your pregnancy. So, never take a chance on using any type of drugs without consulting your doctor beforehand.

What to do immediately after getting a leg cramp during pregnancy?

If all the odds go against you and you are having a leg cramp during pregnancy, you can use the following methods to ease yourself at the time.

1. Stretch

When you get a cramp, immediately try to stretch your legs. This can help the blood circulation in the leg area and give comfort in some time. If you are able to stretch your legs right at the time of cramps, there is high chance that cramps will go away soon.

2. Apply heat to the area

Applying heat to the area where you just got cramps can also be very helpful to ease the pain. As we know, heat can get your blood flowing and also relaxes your muscles. Using a hot water bag on the area of your leg where you are getting cramps is one of the best methods to ease down your painful leg cramps.

3. Talk to your prenatal caregiver

If none of the above mentioned methods applies, talk to your doctor or prenatal caregiver who can help you by recommending some painkillers. Some of the popularly prescribed medicines for leg cramps are acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen. This can definitely ease you out of your leg cramps.

When to seek medical help?

Sometimes, no home based remedies and tricks can be helpful to ease your cramps and you must know when your problem can not be taken care of at home. You must consult your doctor when the following happens:

1. If you get leg cramps quite often

Some moderate amount of leg cramps like once in a week or so can be tolerable. However, if the frequency of leg cramps rises and you start getting cramps very often, it is high time you seek some medical attention.

2. If the cramps last longer than ten minutes

Usually, the cramps last for few seconds to hours. You must be concerned about the length of your cramps and if they start extending to ten minutes or more, getting help from your doctor is a must.

3. If the pain due to cramps is unbearable

Obviously, if your cramps give you excruciating and unbearable pain, you should seek advice from your doctor and opt for some medicines and painkillers on permission.

4. If you get cramps when in touch with some specific substances

Sometimes, the cramps you get may not always be due to pregnancy. When you get in touch with some substance like soil or if you were cut somewhere and then your cramps started, it can be a symptom of bacterial infections like tetanus. This must be taken to a doctor and diagnosed properly.

5. If the area where you get cramps become red

Sometimes when the cramps are extreme, it generates red rashes in the skin. This can be the cause of seized blood circulation in the leg area. Also, in further extreme cases, the legs start getting blue. If this happens, there is no other choice than to go to a hospital while applying heat on the area.

To add more, leg cramps during pregnancy is pretty common and most of the times this is not a serious concern. However, you can take the above mentioned remedies and home based tricks to ease your way out of the unnecessary pain which can come as a hurdle in your joyous pregnancy period.

Tell us how you coped with leg cramps during your nine months, in the comment box below!

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