Leg cramps is one of the many side effects you might experience when you’re pregnant. While doctors and health care professionals don’t really know exactly why pregnant women frequently experience leg cramps, it’s suspected that leg muscles can grow tired and fatigued due to carrying around extra baby weight. Plus, a pregnant woman’s expanding uterus can put excess pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the legs.
Most pregnant women will begin to experience leg cramps during their second trimester when their stomachs grow larger. While leg cramps typically occur during daytime hours, they can sometimes occur at night and interfere with your ability to get a good night’s rest.
Some OB-GYNs recommend that pregnant women who experience leg cramps take magnesium and calcium supplements in addition to their prenatal vitamins, since these nutrients can help muscles contract and relax more effectively. However, don’t start taking magnesium and calcium supplements unless your health care provider has agreed that they are safe for you to take during pregnancy based on your current state of health.
Here are ways to prevent leg cramps throughout your pregnancy:
- Avoid standing for long periods of time, or sitting with your legs crossed. These behaviors can restrict blood flow and result in leg cramps.
- Stretch your calf muscles several times throughout the day and before you go to sleep.
- Rotate your ankles in both directions, and wiggle your toes frequently when sitting down at work or at home.
- Go for a walk every day, or engage in daily physical activity to strengthen your muscles and promote blood flow. Consult with your OB-GYN before engaging in any exercise routine.
- Lie down on your left side when sleeping or relaxing to improve blood circulation to and from your legs.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated throughout the day. In many cases, leg cramps can occur due to dehydration.
- Take warm baths on a regular basis to help relax your muscles.
If you continue to suffer from leg cramps after following one or more of the behaviors above, immediately stretch your calf muscles to alleviate the pain. Straighten your leg with the heel first, then gently flex your toes by curling them back toward your shins. You may experience pain at first, but eventually the pain will go away as long as you continue to stretch to ease the spasm.
Contact your health care provider immediately if your legs become swollen, red in color, or tender. These signs could indicate that you’ve developed a blood clot, in which case you need to receive immediate medical care.
CarePoint Health is dedicated to providing you with the individual care and attention you need so you can relax and focus on what is most important — the birth of your new baby. Contact us today to learn more about our obstetrics and maternity services.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.