Leg cramps otherwise called “Charley Horses”( a non-clinical name for painful cramps in calf muscles) are one of the most common issues faced by expectant mommies around the world. Statistically speaking , more than 50% of the pregnant women are reported to have experienced muscle spasms towards the end of their pregnancies. It possibly begins in the second trimister around the 19th week and lasts throughout pregnancy.
With an already fatigued body and an overdriven mind, leg cramps seem to add more fuel to the fire. A number of reasons are cited to be responsible for these excruciating pains radiating from the calves upwards.
Gain in pregnancy weight (women gain nearly 25 pounds in a healthy pregnancy), water retention clinically known as “edema ,compression of the blood vessels in the legs, shortage of certain minerals like calcium and magnesium( though there is no clear cut proof for this), excess of potassium in the blood stream,and finally the usual culprits – pregnancy harmomes are believed to be adding to our already overflowing woes.
Leg cramps typically happen at night when we are sleeping causing much agony and hinderance in our sleep. Ok woes apart ! Lets have a brief discussion on how to deal with these painful muscle spasms .
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When having leg cramps try these 11 methods for some relief :
11 Methods to Deal With Leg Cramps in Pregnancy
1) Stretch your legs and gently wiggle your ankle and toes flexing them back towards the shin. Do this several times a day. Never sit cross-legged as it can aggravate the condition.
3) Rest your legs in an elevated position when sitting, propped up with cushions. Never let your legs dangle in the air as it can increase the pressure in the legs leading to water retention.
4) Try applying heat pads to the affected area. You can also go for prenatal massages. But do not overdo anything.
5) Cold compress or walking for a while on the cold floor when in the middle of a bout of muscle spasm is believed to be of some use.
6) Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for longer periods of time ; both cause fluid retention making your feet feel heavy.
7) Wear supportive ,compressive stockings to support your aching calves and ankles.
8) Alternate between work and rest. Never rush around or be pushy towards your physical activity , at the same time do not sit or lie down for long periods of time. Maintain a good balance between the two to avoid aches and pains.
9) When lying down or sleeping l, lie on your left side. This helps in good circulation of blood from your legs to the heart and back to legs.
10) Eat a well balanced and healthy diet. Increase in phosphorus is believed to cause “Edema” or water retention and lack of calcium and magnesium is said to aggravate muscle cramps. So, consult your health care provider and prepare a pregnancy diet chart and have healthy food rich in protien ,vitamins and minerals. Keep yourself well hydrated too.
11) Take a warm bath before going to bed. As leg cramps are more common during sleep, having a warm shower before hitting the sack could possibly help in alleviating the pain. You can make your bath more luxurious by adding some scented oil and epsom salt to it. This would help you relax overall and have a good night’s sleep.
When to be alarmed ?
Leg cramps usually subside with the above given remedies and are not much cause for concern. But if you find that your cramps remain frequent, do not respond to simple remedies, your feet is red and swollen and is warm when touched call your doctor immediately. This could be a sign of different medical condition which would require a different treatment.
Executive Summary :
Muscle cramps or “Charley’s Horses” as they are called are one of the most common issues faced by nearly half of the pregnant women. It is more prominent in the third trimester. Your calf muscles contract suddenly accompanied by shooting pain upwards your legs. It is believed to be caused by varied reasons like – weight gain , growing belly , water retention ,contraction of blood capillaries in the legs and shortage of certain minerals.
Simple home remedies are believed to provide the much needed relief. Doing light exercises, stretching your calf muscles-wiggling your feet and flexing towards the shin, applying heat pads and cold compresses ,prenatal massage, wearing supportive stockings , warm bath before hitting the bed and a good amount of rest are a few methods to help you cope with the discomfort caused by muscle spasms.
If your pain does not subside with these methods, a visit to your practisioner is very much necessary to ward off any other possible ailment.