Leg cramps during pregnancy are quite common. They happen due to so many purported reasons but none of them is concrete enough to get scientific conclusion. It starts from the tightness of the calves and stretches all the way down the legs, sometimes, it affects the toes.
Leg cramps are conditions that are considered harmless as they come and are gone within minutes. However, they can pose a serious level of discomfort for pregnant women. Ordinarily, pregnant women are in a state of discomfort due to their constantly increasing body size and unpredictable sleep pattern. Adding leg cramps that come mostly in the night when they should be resting is another tick in the box of discomfort for them.
In this article, we will talk about leg cramps during pregnancy. The discomfort it brings, what causes it, and the treatments that help pregnant women deal with it.
Understanding Leg Cramps
Leg cramps affect everyone, not just pregnant women. However, our focus is on pregnant women as leg cramps are known to be disturbers of rest. They come when you least expect them and disrupt the rest you are about to enjoy. As a pregnant mother, it is important that you take as much rest as you can. Therefore, you should understand what leg cramps are and curb them.
Leg cramps during pregnancy usually occur beginning from the second trimester of pregnancy. it mostly happens at night when you are about to sleep. Leg cramps during pregnancy are characterized by the tightness of your leg muscles, especially the calf. Other leg muscles such as in the thighs and toes may be affected too. Whichever parts of the leg is affected, it could be mild or intense.
The leg muscles become taut from the unrest (contracting and tensing) they are experiencing, even while you are resting. This leads to the tightness you feel that may last for minutes. In intense cramp cases, you may feel pain that lasts for days after the cramp has subsided.
Causes of Leg Cramps During Pregnancy
No one knows the specific cause of leg cramps during pregnancy. However, there are culprits that fingers are pointed at. Some of the factors possibly responsible for leg cramps during pregnancy include diet – calcium and phosphorus consumption and absorption, rest, increased weight, and blood vessels compression.
What you eat during pregnancy is of utmost importance and that is why one of the probable causes of leg cramps during pregnancy is your diet.
Your body needs enough nutrients to help you carry the new life and sustain it within you. It is believed that inadequate consumption of calcium and phosphorus may be partly responsible for the leg cramps you feel as a pregnant woman.
Another mineral that is important in the regulation of muscular movements in the body is magnesium. A shortage of this mineral might also cause leg cramps.
Muscles tend to experience uncontrolled movements when they are not used enough and when they are in positions that work them, unlike what they are used to.
This alludes to the fact that pregnant women need to get active. Leg muscles have less tendency of cramping when you use them regularly and rest them adequately after use.
The pregnancy weight you’ve acquired in the few weeks you’ve been pregnant may be the reason your leg muscles are cramping. Leg cramps during pregnancy could arise due to the weight your legs now have to support.
Remember that when your muscles are subjected to works, they are not used to, they may cramp?
Your body has increased in weight and your baby’s weight is added. All of these are carried by your legs. It is only normal for the muscles to cramp at the end of the day.
Compressed Blood Vessels
As your uterus grows to accommodate the size of your child, some organs and tissues such as your intestine, arteries and veins are slightly moved from their usual positions or even compressed.
The compression of these blood vessels, especially the ones carrying blood to the lower body, means less blood supply gets to the legs and they might get inadequate amount of oxygen. This may lead to leg cramps during pregnancy.
Treatment for Leg Cramps During Pregnancy
Leg cramps usually don’t last more than a few minutes. However, the pain that it leaves can last for hours. Also, to avoid re-occurrence of the leg cramps during pregnancy that gets in the way of rest, it is necessary that one seeks treatment.
The treatment suggestions you will get here can also be used as preventive measures against leg ramps during pregnancy.
Leg cramps during pregnancy occurs when you don’t use your leg muscles enough. Since the cramps mostly occur at night, although it can occur any time of the day, it is advisable that you stretch your leg muscles at night.
Engage your calves in exercises that help them stretch the muscles out. Warm the calve muscles up by standing on your toes for 30 seconds and rest for a while before repeating it two more times.
Engage the calves better by standing on a raised platform. Let your heels hang freely and rest your body weight on the ball of your feet. Lift yourself up slowly and squeeze your calf muscles at the top. Then, slowly lower yourself to the starting position.
In as much as you need to exercise your leg muscles, they also need adequate rest.
If you are lying on your back, keep your toes facing upward. In this position, your leg muscles are at rest and at lesser risk of cramping.
If you are lying on your chest, keep your feet dangling at the end of the bed. That way, you do not engage any leg muscles and at less risk of experiencing leg cramps.
It is important that you fix your diet if it is the likely cause of the leg cramps you’re experiencing. Feed on foods that are rich in minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. If you have no idea of what foods to eat, you can check out this list of foods rich in Iron and Calcium.
This should be the last resort and it should happen only after you have consulted your doctor and he, or she has advised that you take some medications to address the leg cramps during pregnancy.
Leg cramps during pregnancy can be a pain you don’t want to experience over and over, especially if it occurs for protracted periods.
The cause for leg cramps during pregnancy is unknown but diets that doesn’t address important mineral needs, leg muscles inactivity, compressed blood vessels, are some of the possible causes.
However, to prevent and treat leg cramps during pregnancy, eat foods that are rich in minerals that regulate muscular movement, involve in activities that work the leg muscles, and on the advice of a doctor, use medications that supply the needed nutrients to your body.
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Ayomide, is a Health professional, who has worked in most healthcare unit and has a background in Nursing.