Pregnancy can be a pain, especially with leg cramps

Easy Tricks to Treat Leg Cramps during Pregnancy

Want to learn about leg cramps and pregnancy + treatment? Read on!

You’re walking along and, BAM, leg cramp! Or possibly even worse, you wake from your precious sleep because you’re legs are spasming. ARGH. All you want to do is STOP THE MADNESS that are leg cramps. So what’s a woman to do?

AM I THE ONLY ONE WITH LEG CRAMPS DURING PREGNANCY?! 

Don’t worry you’re not alone.

About 30% of women will get cramps in their legs during their pregnancies. 

And about 26% of pregnant women may experience restless leg syndrome. (Hensley, 2009

WHY AM I HAVING LEG CRAMPS DURING PREGNANCY? 

Leg cramps may be caused by increased weight = more work for the muscles (a good reason to build up strength), hormonal changes, and/or shifting vitamin and mineral levels in the muscles. 

Lastly, dehydration may also contribute to leg cramps during pregnancy. It’s challenging to drink enough water when you feel like you have to pee all the time! (Side note – concentrated urine also makes you feel like you need to pee more) 

HOW TO STOP LEG CRAMPS DURING PREGNANCY

Supplementation

Vitamin and mineral imbalance may be part of the cause of leg cramps during pregnancy. Generally, calcium, potassium, and magnesium are the main culprits (though low iron or sodium could also play a role.) 

The literature is “iffy” about what supplementation is best (Zhou, West, Zhang, Xu, Li, 2015).

But one study surveyed 400 women and found that almost 55% of those with leg cramps also had low magnesium (Sohrabvand and Karimi, 2009).

Another study found that magnesium use during pregnancy helped decrease leg cramps (Supakatisant and Phupong, 2012).

Personally, I’ve seen improvement with using magnesium for cramps, as well as anxiety and insomnia. 

Taking a bath with Epsom salts can help Treat Leg Cramps during Pregnancy
Epsom salt baths are one possible way to get magnesium
Magnesium

Double-check your prenatal and see if there’s any magnesium in it. This one (though expensive!) happens to be the one I take.

I’ve also used Natural Calm and have heard great things about Mag Soothe. The first is magnesium citrate and the second is magnesium glycinate.

There is some discussion in the literature about what type of magnesium your body may use more easily. But you might find you like one personally better. 

(Side note – some types of magnesium (like magnesium citrate) also cause some increased bowel activity, so might be helpful for constipation as well) 

Rather not take another supplement? Try a topical application.

Just as there is debate about what type of magnesium is best, there is also debate on whether topical magnesium can actually penetrate the skin.

Wanna give it a try? Here are some options

  • Epsom salt baths (Ancient Minerals is the brand I like)
  • Mineral salt spray (Ease has been my favorite [it didn’t cause itching], though I’ve also made my own

I like to supplement with magnesium before going to bed because of its effect on anxiety and insomnia. Plus it might be even more beneficial if you’re having leg cramps waking you! 

Obviously, always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement.

Drinking enough water can help Treat Leg Cramps during Pregnancy
Some mineral waters also have high levels of magnesium

Hydration

Water is vital in so many of our body’s functions. Besides kidney function, it’s important for skin health and brain performance. 

How much is enough? The traditional rule of thumb is 64 fluid ounces. Recently, some health professionals advocate drinking ½ your body weight in water.

For example, if I weigh 150 lbs, I would shoot for 75 oz of water. 

The easiest way I’ve found to increase my water intake is by carrying a 32 oz water bottle with me. (This is the one I use) I know if I drink two of them, I’ve reached the recommended 64 oz. 

I’ve also heard of people putting a number of rubber bands on their water bottles equal to how many bottles they want to drink in a day. Once they finish the bottle, they move a band up the bottle, kind of like making a hash mark. 

Other people simply don’t like the taste of water or get bored with it. Try mixing it up by putting some fruit in your water. Lemon is my personal preference, but limes or oranges are great too. Plus you’ll get extra vitamin C for an immune boost.

You could also get your magnesium via your water.

I already mentioned the magnesium powder above, but some other ladies use electrolyte tablets in their water (link to Nuun). This both gives your water a taste and some supplementation of minerals that might be lacking.

Again, talk to your doc before supplementing.

Coconut water is a hit for others. It also has some extra electrolytes that might also help keep leg cramps at bay. 

Compression Socks to Treat Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

Compression socks

Pregnancy results in a lot of changes in the cardiovascular system. For many women, they experience more swelling and this could relate to leg cramps during pregnancy. (BTW talk to your doc about any swelling that sticks around as it could be a sign of something more serious)

One way to help keep blood flowing is the use of compression socks. Other benefits may include decreased risk for DVT (deep vein thrombosis, a potentially life-threatening blood clot) and fewer varicose veins. 

Check out some of the most-loved ones on amazon here. 

Exercise can help with a myriad of pregnancy pains, including leg cramps

Move it, move it

Perhaps I’m biased (I am a physical therapist after all), but my favorite solution to leg cramps during pregnancy is movement. 

Aside from helping cramps, movement also improves strength, circulation, emotional and mental well-being. Check out this post if you’d like to read more about the benefits of exercise during pregnancy. 

Some great movements to help with leg cramps during pregnancy include

  1. Calf stretching
  2. Ankle circles or ankle pumps
  3. Walking on the spot

I made a quick video to help you understand these 3 exercises for treating leg cramps during pregnancy

Massage 

The last tidbit for how to stop leg cramps during pregnancy is massage. And I don’t mean going to see a massage therapist for an hour (though that sounds pretty nice).

Instead, I’m talking about rolling out your muscles using a foam roller or a stick. This is not quite as pleasant as a Swedish massage, but it’s effective, cheaper, and not as time-consuming. You can even use a rolling pin! 

Here are a few of my favorite tools for this:

  1. Foam roller
  2. The stick
  3. Lacrosse ball 

SAY GOODBYE TO LEG CRAMPS

To sum it up, leg cramps suck. But you can improve them by proper hydration and nutrition, wearing compression socks, specific exercises, and keeping your muscles loose.

Help a sister out – do you have any other tricks for leg cramps?

 

 

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