Many pregnant women report waking up in the middle of the night with a painfully cramped foot, or stretching in the morning only to be felled by spasm in their calf muscle. Usually this problem arises in the second or third trimester and we get lots of questions about it from our pregnant patients . . .
Why am I getting leg cramps? As your uterus enlarges, it places greater pressure on the blood vessels in your pelvis. This can result in muscle cramps in your legs, especially when you are resting. Other causes of leg cramps include a diet lacking some important nutrients (like Magnesium) and the pressure of your baby’s head on certain nerves.
How can I prevent leg cramps? Here are some prevention strategies for pregnant women that come straight from the Mayo Clinic:
- Stay active. Regular physical activity might help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy. Just check with your South Lake doctor first to make sure exercise is safe for you.
- Try magnesium-rich foods. Limited research suggests that taking a magnesium supplement might help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy. Eating more magnesium-rich foods also could help; these foods include whole grains, beans, dried fruits, nuts and seeds. If you’re considering a supplement, ask us first.
- Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated might help prevent muscle cramps. If your urine is dark yellow, you might not be getting enough water. Drink up.
- Choose proper footwear. Choose comfortable shoes with appropriate support.
- Stretch your calf muscles. Stretching before bed might help prevent leg cramps.
Here is an exercise to try:
- Stand at arm’s length from a wall.
- Place your hands on the wall in front of you.
- Move your right foot behind your left foot.
- Slowly bend your left leg forward, keeping your right knee straight and your right heel on the floor.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Switch legs and repeat
- Cautionary Note: Be careful to keep your back straight and your hips forward. Don’t rotate your feet and avoid pointing your toes.
Ouch! I already have a leg cramp. What can I do? Sometimes prevention doesn’t work. If you get leg cramps, there are steps you can take to alleviate the pain:
- Stretch and rub the calf muscle on the affected side.
- Walk for a bit and then elevate your legs. This also might help keep the leg cramp from returning.
- Take a warm shower or bath.
- Try an ice massage.
The good news is, leg cramps aren’t dangerous. The bad news is, they can feel pretty awful. We hope the above information will help you cope. If you have any other questions or concerns about leg cramps, you can always talk to us or just call.