leg cramps during pregnancy

A lot of women complain about leg cramps during pregnancy, and they do have a point.

If you are expecting a child, charley horses may bother you quite often, above all during nighttime, when they usually attack you. They happen pretty fast by following this pattern: your muscles tighten, causing you spasms that can perfectly radiate from the calves to the upper part of your legs. And that hurts indeed! 

Are you tired of putting up with leg cramps in pregnancy? Here you'll find very useful information to make them better.


Leg cramps during pregnancy: What did I do wrong?

Many women wonder why they ended up having such painful spasms in their legs but, of course, it's not their fault. There's not a clear answer about what causes leg cramps during pregnancy, but experts aim at different triggers. Pregnancy hormones are thought to be one of them, since they relax the blood vessel walls provoking compression in your legs. Along with this, you should consider the extra weight that your legs have to carry, especially in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Other factors involve a diet poor in nutrients like calcium and magnesium, and dehydration.


Leg cramps during pregnancy: When do they happen?

As already suggested, leg cramps usually start at some point of the second trimester, around 20 weeks pregnant, and become more frequent and painful late in your pregnancy, when your weight gain reaches its highest peak.

Also, leg cramps get more noticeable at night, when your body rests and there's more fluid accumulation.


How can I relieve the pain?

The best way to treat leg cramps in pregnancy and kill its pain is by taking paracetamol, which is safe for you and your baby when taken in right dosages. A heating pad should add some relief too, along with standing on a cold surface or flexing your ankle and toes back towards your shins.

However, before you get to that point, it's better to think about ways to prevent such awful spasms from happening in the first place. Avoid them by:

  • Filling up on fluids: keep yourself hydrated by drinking between 8 and 12 glasses of water a day. Juice and milk can also do the trick!
  • Stretching your body: as if you were about to work out, do some stretching exercises, for example, before going to bed. Try standing in front of a wall and put your palms flat against it while you lean forward, with your heels on the floor. Hold this position for ten seconds, take a few moments to rest and then do it again up to three times.
  • Combining periods of activity with rest: when you sit down, keep your feet elevated.
  • Wearing a support hose on the affected leg during the day.
  • Walking around: go out and have regular walks to keep blood flowing well.

Embracing a healthy diet is another key to success. Make sure you eat 4.700 mg of potassium, which you can get from baked potatoes, around 1.000 mg of calcium (yoghurt and milk are good options) and 350 mg of magnesium (bananas have plenty of it) per day. Keeping the right amount of such nutrients has been linked to reducing leg cramps during pregnancy.


Leg cramps during pregnancy: When to worry 

Leg cramps may cause a lot of discomfort and even keep you awake at night, but rather than that, they hardly ever entail further complications. Except, of course, for lasting and severe charley horses that persist and are accompanied by redness and swelling. If that happens, you could be facing a blood clot, which requires immediate medical help. Don't try to massage it on your own, because you could make the blood clot travel to another part of your body, and that can be very dangerous (especially if it reaches your lungs and your heart). Let the doctor decide on the best treatment.

Finally, leg cramps during pregnancy should get better if you take action by following recommendations like the ones mentioned in this article. Just remember that this pain won't last forever: it will go away once you give birth.