Leg Cramps During Pregnancy: A Look Into This Common Condition

You don’t need us to tell you that leg cramps during pregnancy are no laughing matter. In this post, we take a look at the symptoms, causes and what can be done to keep them at bay.

Leg Cramps During Pregnancy: Common Questions And Answers

Leg cramps are so common during pregnancy that we thought we’d answer some of the more common questions below:

So, What Are Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?

Cramps in the leg during pregnancy are no different to normal muscles cramps that you might experience.

They are robust and sharp contraction and tightening of the leg muscle that can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.

Typically, these cramps will strike at night, particularly during pregnancy.

The three main causes of pregnancy cramp are:

  • Your muscles bearing the increased weight of baby causing them to strain.
  • Your baby will be putting pressure on the main vein from your legs
  • A hormone called progesterone which is produced during pregnancy

Are There Any Tests?

While there’s no test for leg cramping, if you’re experiencing these on a pretty regular basis then you’ll certainly want to mention this to your Doctor as it could be a sign of something else going on.

How Common Are Leg Cramps?

Charley horses is extremely common in pregnancy, in fact, nearly 1 in 3 women will experience leg cramps particularly during the third trimester as the baby weight starts to increase and adds to muscle strain.

Why Do I Get Cramp?

Cramp is caused by:

  • Dehydration
  • Excessive muscle strain
  • Lack of key nutrients

Will my leg cramps affect baby?

No, leg cramps shouldn’t affect your baby; however, you do need to make sure that you’re getting enough of those key nutrients that baby needs for development.

It’s also crucial that you stay hydrated as dehydration can cause contractions and lead to preterm labour.

Is there medical treatment available for leg cramps?

While pain can be managed using pharmaceuticals such as acetaminophen (check with your doctor if this is okay during pregnancy), the best thing to do is manage leg cramps before they become painful.

How Can I Prevent Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?

Once we know the cause of leg cramps during pregnancy, we can begin to treat the condition.

Dehydration

Dehydration is probably one of the most common causes of cramps during pregnancy. You need to aim to drink anywhere from 6 to 12 glasses of water a day.

Drinking that much water can be difficult (and tedious) so try switching water for decaf coffee and tea, fruit flavoured teas or even diluted juice.

Lack of Key Nutrients

Sometimes during pregnancy, you find that you don’t necessarily want to eat the healthiest of foods (don’t worry, it happens to the best of us).

The problem with junk calories is that often, these foods are missing essential nutrients that help prevent cramping such as potassium, magnesium and calcium.

But the lack of crucial nutrients isn’t just a nutritional issue:

Blood volume increases by up to 50% during pregnancy which means that you’ll need to consume extra nutrients to help keep the balance in check during this time.

Muscle Strain

Finally, as baby develops, you’ll no doubt notice that the increased weight has an impact on your muscles, particularly in your legs and back.

All this impact and strain can lead to one thing – cramp.

While things like staying active can help to keep blood flowing, massaging your legs is the most effective tactic as it really helps to improve muscle flexibility.

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