As any first time Mum to be quickly finds out (and Mums already know) there are more than a few aspects of pregnancy that are not at all joyful. As wonderful as the end result is any Mum to be is facing nine months filled with all kinds of nagging aches and pains, discomforts and embarrassments. Sudden painful leg cramps are just one of the more common nasties a Mum to be has to deal with.
What Cause Leg Cramps in Pregnancy?
There are all kinds of things that can cause leg cramps during pregnancy. Decreased blood circulation to the leg thanks to bloating and water retention, the extra weight your legs are being asked to carry and very often Baby sits in just the wrong spot in your uterus, causing it to press against the delicate and easily pinched nerves that lead to your legs.
Leg cramps in pregnancy are usually quite harmless but given how painful they can be that is of little consolation when they strike! While you may not be able to put a stop to them all there are some things you can do to help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy. Here are five great ideas:
Stop Crossing Your Legs – As ladies we have been taught for years that modesty when sitting is important and for most women that means crossing their legs most of the time, something that eventually becomes an automatic habit.
Doing so too often while pregnant can be a big trigger for sudden leg cramps, especially if you sit in the same position for a while. To help prevent leg cramps (and to lessen pregnancy related leg swelling) uncross those legs and elevate your legs by resting your feet on a stool.
Calf Stretches – Make a few very simple calf stretches a part of your daily exercise routine. This is a very simple and pregnancy friendly one:
Begin by making sure you are standing on a solid, safe surface, like an exercise mat. Support yourself by holding onto the wall or a sturdy chair. Stand with your with your feet about shoulder width apart, facing the same direction. Step forward with your right foot, bending at the knee. Your left knee should also be bent slightly. In this exercise , you will be stretching your left calf while straightening and bending the left knee. Hold each stretch about 10-15 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times per leg.
Another very simple thing you can do when seated to prevent leg cramps is to gently rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes a little.
Drink Plenty of Fluids – Remaining hydrated is important in general while you are pregnant and getting enough to drink can also help prevent leg cramps. Plain water can be very boring and bland though – one of the reasons that many women do not drink enough of it.
One way you can learn to love drinking water is to flavor it naturally. Make a big pitcher with ice and if you are heading out fill up a reusable water bottle with it to take with you. These are my favorite tasty additions to water that give it some all natural flavour:
Take a Warm Bath – Leg cramps often strike at night. To try to help prevent this take a nice warm bath before bed. The warm water will naturally relax all of your muscles, including those in your legs, making night time cramps less likely. This is also a great way to relax in general and get a little much needed ‘you’ time as well.
Make Sure Your Diet Includes Plenty of Calcium and Magnesium – Some studies have shown both of these minerals to be helpful to ward off leg cramps. Dairy products have lots of calcium and black beans, broccoli and whole grains all have plenty of magnesium. Some people also suggest taking a supplement as well but this is something you should run by your doctor first.
What to Do to Help Relieve a Leg Cramp – The pain of a sudden leg cramp can stop you dead in your tracks or wake you up from a nice deep sleep with quite a shock. To begin to relieve the pain, straighten the affected leg, heel first and then very gently flex your toes towards your shin. It will probably hurt at first but it will stop the cramp faster in most cases. You can also try applying local heat to relieve the pain.
What if the Pain Does Not Go Away? – Almost all leg cramping in pregnancy is harmless. However, if the pain persists, or is accompanied by sudden swelling or redness, or the area is unusually warm to the touch call your doctor as this can be a sign of a blood clot. Blood clots are rare but they are more common in pregnancy.This can be a serious condition so even if it turns out you simply have a very nasty cramp its better to be safe than sorry!