Leg cramps are among the common discomforts pregnant women may experience. Sometimes called a “charley horse,” according to the National Institutes of Health, these are muscle spasms in the leg that contract without the person’s control and will not relax. Pregnant women often experience these leg cramps at night.
The leg muscle contracts in what some women describe as a knot in the calf muscle. The pain can be quite severe and might wake a pregnant mother from her sleep. These leg cramps often begin during the second or third trimesters, according to the March of Dimes.
Leg cramps can occur because of irritated, strained or overworked muscles, according to the National Institute of Health. Other causes include dehydration or low potassium.
Although the regular reasons for leg cramps may apply, for pregnant women, there are other things that might cause these cramps. Changes in the blood’s circulation, the strain on the leg muscles due to carrying the baby or the baby’s weight putting pressure on the blood vessels or muscle’s nerves are other reasons for leg cramps.
Reducing Leg Cramps
Although nothing will completely prevent a pregnant mother from experiencing leg cramps, there are some things you can do to help reduce them. Walk each day, don’t sit in one position for too long and don’t cross the legs, which constricts the blood flow. Doing some gentle stretching before going to sleep is recommended by the March of Dimes, as well as changing position frequently to reduce the pressure on the blood vessels in the legs. A warm bath before bed relaxes the leg muscles. The National Institute of Health suggests eating potassium-rich foods, such as bananas or oranges.
You can try several methods to ease a leg cramp. Gently straighten the leg and wiggle the toes. Point the heel and point the toe towards the shin. Massage the leg gently to ease the cramp. Apply a hot compress, followed by a cold compress.
While these leg cramps typically ease with massage and warm/cold compresses, there are times when the mother’s obstetrician needs to be informed. If the cramps do not ease or occur frequently or if there is tenderness, swelling, warmth, redness or weakness in the leg, these could be a sign of a serious health problem.
- Pregnancy Hurts image by Frenk_Danielle Kaufmann from Fotolia.com