Are you getting these painful cramps in your calves? Did you wake from your sleep during the night due to brief but excruciating muscle spasm in your leg?
Leg cramps are common in the course of pregnancy. Nearly half of the pregnant women experience this intense pain of muscle spasm in the leg. These lower leg cramps are more frequent in the evening and the middle of the night, especially during the second and third trimesters.
What Is Meant By Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?
Leg cramps are a common yet, innocuous condition where the muscles in the leg suddenly contract and become rigid and painful. The cramps usually happen in the calf muscles. Any part of the leg, including the feet and thighs, can also be affected. Typically, a painful spasm ascends from the back of the leg (calf muscle) towards the thigh. The spasm can last for a few seconds, or sometimes it can even last for five to ten minutes. After the cramping has passed, you may feel the pain and tenderness in your leg for some more time, which eventually fades out. Three out of four cases of leg cramps are found to happen during the night while sleeping.
What Causes Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?
There are no definite reasons to pin down muscle cramps during pregnancy. Back in the days, it was thought that calcium deficiency is the reason behind these spasms. Later research concluded that calcium insufficiency is not the reason to blame for leg cramps. Some other factors may trigger leg cramps in the course of pregnancy, such as:
- Overload on muscles: Leg cramps are found to be more prominent during the second and the third trimester of pregnancy. This relates to the weight gained during pregnancy with the leg cramps. As the leg muscles need to support the extra weight, this excessive work of the muscle can cause leg cramps
- Pressure on the blood vessels: The developing infant and growing abdomen bring additional weight on the blood vessels that proceed to the leg. Therefore, the leg muscles may not get enough blood, which is a typical reason for cramping
- Stimulating the nerves: Another possibility is the head of the baby pressing the nerves that are capable of triggering leg cramps
How Can I Ease Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?
Following a couple of steps will help to relieve the leg cramps faster:
- Straighten your legs and slowly bend the ankle and toes back toward the shins (front of the leg below the knees) several times
- Ask your accomplice to give a gentle massage to the calf. This may help to release the tightening of the muscle faster
- Pressing a heating pad on the affected area can also provide fast relief
- As the tension eases, attempt to straighten the leg flexing the toes upwards. This will make you come back to normal faster
- When you are capable, stand up and walk around. This will help to alleviate the discomforts and pain as the result of the cramps faster
How Can I Prevent The Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?
Here are some measures to prevent leg cramps in the course of pregnancy:
- Abstain yourself from standing or sitting cross-legged for a long time
- Turn your ankles and move up and down your toes whenever you can, especially, when you are sitting for a long period like reading books, watching screens, or even having dinner
- Mild and regular physical movement may forestall leg spasms amid pregnancy. Go out for a stroll or a gentle walk each day, unless your doctor has instructed you no physical activity at all
- Drink plenty of water. Maintaining the muscle well hydrated can help to prevent leg cramps. Dehydration can lead to muscle contraction.
- Choosing proper footwear can also help to prevent leg cramps. Try to choose shoes with a good firm heel counter, which ensures foot support
- Including potassium, magnesium, and calcium-rich food in the daily menu during pregnancy may help in preventing muscle cramps
- In Ayurveda, there are some oils (prescribed by an Ayurvedic practitioner) with which doing a mild massage before taking a hot bath will decrease the chances of leg cramps
When Should I Seek Medical Attention For Leg Cramps?
Leg cramps during pregnancy are quite common and, more often, no need for medical attention. However, just to be on the safer side, it is significant to call for medical attention if:
- The pain is severe and intolerable
- The cramps are more frequent
- The sleep is seriously affected
- The pain is persistent and not spasmodic
- There appears a swelling or redness in the area of pain
- The area feels warm when you touch there
Any of the above signs can be an indication of a dangerous condition called DVT (deep vein thrombosis). DVT refers to the blood clot in the vein far down in the body. DVT requires immediate medical attention as it can be fatal if the clot detaches from the vein and travel towards the heart or lungs.