Leg Cramps in Pregnancy

Leg cramps, also known as "charlie horses", are common during pregnancy. These painful muscle spasms often occur at night when laying in bed, but they can occur at any time throughout the day. Extending the foot or pointing the toes can trigger a leg cramp.

What causes leg cramps in pregnancy?

It is not known the exact reason as to why leg cramps occur in pregnancy. It is suspected that the expanding uterus may put pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the leg subsequently causing leg cramps and pain.

How can I relieve leg cramps?

If you experience a leg cramp, you should try to stretch the muscle. This can be done by straightening your leg with your toes coming toward you. You can ask for assistance from your partner if needed. A second person can help to stretch and straighten the leg providing relief. Another approach is standing up to stretch. Massage and rest may also help relieve the pain of leg cramps.

Prevention of leg cramps

Calcium, potassium, and phosphorous supplements have been suggested as ways to prevent leg cramps. Talk with your doctor before taking any supplement. Including foods that are rich in potassium such as bananas and green leafy vegetables and foods rich in calcium such as milk, cheese, and yogurt may give added protection against leg cramps. Stretching regularly, getting adequate rest, and regular exercise may also help prevent leg cramps.

When to call the doctor?

If leg cramps are severe or there is associated swelling or tenderness, you should call your doctor. Although rare, leg pain can be an indicator of a blood clot. It is always best to check with your health care provider if you have worries or concerns.

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