Can Leg Cramps During Pregnancy be Prevented?

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: May 17, 2015 | Last Updated: Oct 4, 2018

Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

What are Leg Cramps?

Leg cramps, also known as charley horses, occur when a pregnant woman’s muscles tightens abruptly. This condition can be very painful and disturbing. The most common manifestation of this condition is pain and a jumpy sensation in the legs, which are its hallmark signs.

Are there any Tests Conducted for Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?

There are no tests conducted for leg cramps as they may be normal during pregnancy. However, they can also be a sign of other medical conditions, especially when they frequently occur and are accompanied by tenderness, swelling, redness, severe pain, or warmth on the extremity. In this case, the doctor may conduct several tests to rule out other medical conditions, such as blood clots.

How Common are Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?

This condition is quite common during pregnancy. They are more frequent and more painful during the third trimester. This is because the legs carry all the extra weight, especially when walking and standing up.

Why am i Having Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?

Until the present time, there is still no concrete explanation as to why pregnant women get more leg cramps. However, there are theories that could be possible reasons for such occurrence. Some of these include:

  • The leg muscles are tired of carrying all the extra weight. Thus, muscle spasm occurs as response to muscle fatigue.
  • As the uterus expands, it applies pressure to its surrounding organs. One of the affected areas in the body are the blood vessels in the legs. As the uterus grow bigger, more and more pressure is placed on the blood vessels in the legs. Thus, blood supply towards the legs is minimized. As a result, leg cramps and muscle spasm occur due to inadequate nutrient supply.

When Do Leg Cramps Begin To Kick In During Pregnancy?

Leg cramps usually begin to occur during the second trimester and becomes more frequent as the pregnancy progresses, and the pregnant woman’s belly becomes bigger. Furthermore, they can occur during the day, but are most common at night. Thus, they can be one of the reasons why pregnant women wake up at night.

Will The Leg Cramps Affect The Growing Fetus? How?

The leg cramps will normally cause no harm to the growing fetus. However, if the pregnant woman does not get enough fluids and or nutrients, then the baby may be affected. This is because dehydration can lead to development of contractions, which may induce pre-term labor.

How can Leg Cramps be Prevented During the Course of Pregnancy?

Some of the measures that can help prevent leg cramps include the following:

  • Avoid crossing legs when sitting or standing.
  • Stretch the calf muscles during the day and before going to sleep.
  • Rotate the ankles and wiggle one’s toes while doing leisure activities, such as while watching TV.
  • Brisk walk every day, unless a health care personnel advised one not to.
  • Avoid stress and fatigue.
  • Sleep on a left side-lying position to promote circulation.
  • Wear support hose.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking at least 8 to 12 glasses of water, milk, or juice daily.
  • Have a warm bath before going to bed to relax the muscles in the body.
  • Make sure to have adequate amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium in the blood stream. Supplements can also be taken as per doctor’s advice.

See Also: How Can I Soothe My Painful Hips During Pregnancy?

What are Some Ways To Relieve Leg Cramps When They Start To Kick In During Pregnancy?

When leg cramps begin to occur, some of the measures that can be taken to improve the condition and relieve the pain are the following:

  • Stretch the Calf Muscles: Once a leg cramp begins to kick in, immediately stretch the calf muscles. Try to slowly straighten the leg, with the heel first. Then, gently flex the toes back towards the shin. The first attempt could be hard, because it can be painful. However, the succeeding ones will be easier. This process will help ease the spasm. Once the spasm is gone, the pain will slowly go away.
Stretch the Calf Muscles
  • Warm Compress: Applying warm compress by rolling a hot water bottle on the affected area can also help reduce pain and spasm.
  • Walking: Walking a few minutes may also help increase blood flow to the leg and reduce spasm.
  • Cold Compress: Sometimes, applying cold can also stop spasm. One simple and quick measure is to stand on cold surface.

What should be Done if The Pain Persists Even After Carrying Out The Measures?

If the pain still persists after doing all the home remedies, or if the pain is constant and accompanied by redness, tenderness, swelling, and warmth, it is important to seek medical help. These manifestations may signify the presence of a blood clot that may necessitate immediate medical attention. Blood clots rarely occur. However they are more common during pregnancy, and can be fatal if not attended to immediately.

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