Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

Nearly half of all pregnant women suffer from leg cramps – those painful  involuntary muscle spasms that strike your calf, foot or both.  It is not uncommon to experience pregnancy leg cramps particularly in the second and third trimesters.

What Causes Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?

While it isn’t clear exactly what causes these muscle spasms, leg cramps may be caused by pregnancy weight gain  and changes in your circulation. Pressure from the growing baby may pitch the nerves and blood vessels that go to your legs.
How to avoid and treat pregnancy leg cramps  

  • Exercise regularly, and include a stretching routine. For a simple calf stretch – stand at arm’s length from a wall, place your hands on the wall in front of you and move your right foot behind your left foot with toes facing the wall. Slowly bend your left leg forward, keeping your right knee straight and your right heel on the floor. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, being careful to keep your back straight and your hips forward. Breath deeply through the stretch. Repeat with the other leg.
  • When spasms hit, gently perform the stretch on the affected side and then rest with your legs elevated. A warm bath, ice massage or muscle massage may help too.
  • Drink lots of water. Your urine will be clear or light yellow when you’re adequately hydrated.
  • Wear support socks or stockings that provide some compression on your calves.
  • Increase the calcium and magnesium in your diet by eating food such as whole grains, beans, dried fruit, nuts and seeds.  

Contact your health care provider if your leg cramps are severe or persistent. Your health care provider may prescribe additional supplements or medication.

Want to Know More?

Compiled using information from the following sources:
Mayo Clinic Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy Harms, Roger W., M.D., et al, Part 3.
March of Dimes, https://www.marchofdimes.org
Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Ninth Ed. Scott, James R., et al, Ch. 1.