During your second and third trimesters, the discomfort of pregnancy can really hit at night. Despite being exhausted, a squashed bladder and a big belly make it hard to get quality sleep. Then there are the dreaded pregnancy leg cramps.
What causes leg cramps during pregnancy?
Even if you have never had this problem before, it can make itself known as you progress through your pregnancy. Cramps can hit suddenly in one spot and cause you to cry out or present themselves just enough to keep you awake for hours.
This condition can happen for a number of reasons. Firstly, your body is using all the nutrients it needs to grow your baby and keep you going during the day, leaving limited supply for your limbs.
Your muscles are under pressure and your system is working harder than usual to keep the blood circulating. Plus, your uterus is putting pressure on the vein which transports blood from your legs, another potential contributing factor.
What the experts recommend
Doing some gentle stretches can help alleviate the symptoms of leg cramps during pregnancy. Stretch your calves by dropping your heel gently off a low step or extending your leg behind you.
Grab your foot and pull it up behind you to stretch the front of your thigh (stay near a railing or support to save yourself from a tumble), or try some forward bends in a seated position to stretch the backs of your legs. Doing this for a few minutes before bed may help you get to sleep more easily.
Taking a short, not-too-hard walk during the day can also keep the blood moving and ease the cramps later at night. Experts also recommend you stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water from the time you wake up in the morning, and that you switch your high heels for sturdy, supportive footwear if you haven’t done so already.
If you get hit by a cramp, pointing your toe will probably make it worse. Flex your foot gently upwards and try getting up and walking around to keep the pain at bay.
Leg cramps during pregnancy: What pregnant women recommend
Across major pregnancy forums, mothers have plenty of suggestions for reducing the discomfort of leg cramps.
A foam roller is one tip. Gently rolling your sore muscles along a roller from a seated position can bring back the blood flow to the muscles.
Even better, get your partner to massage your legs before bed to stimulate the circulation and help you relax.
A warm shower or bath is another simple strategy recommended by pregnant mothers to reduce leg cramps, as is wearing compression socks in bed.
It is also suggested that lying on your back can make your cramps worse so stick to your side as much as possible at night (your left side if possible).
Many mothers share that they have beaten cramps by avoiding soft drinks and caffeine, which can exacerbate the symptoms.
Finally, you can look to natural ways to relieve leg cramps during pregnancy. For example, find good sources of magnesium and calcium, which are said to alleviate the problem. Bananas, peanuts, milk and pregnancy supplements can provide extra doses of these nutrients to your diet.
For an easy and delicious source of magnesium, potassium and B complex vitamins, try Serenitea during your pregnancy. Relaxing and restorative, this blend helps reduce stress and alleviate muscle tension, with a calmative effect to settle the mind and combat insomnia.
If you are finding leg cramps too much to bear, make an appointment to speak to your healthcare specialist. They will be able to provide advice to help you manage the discomfort and get some decent rest while you wait for your baby to arrive.