Leg Cramps During Pregnancy
Sharp and painful muscle contractions in limbs are not uncommon for most pregnant women. Such contractions (also called cramps or spasms) appear unexpectedly and bother pregnant women especially often during their sleep. In this article we’ll try to figure out what exactly causes cramps during pregnancy and how it is possible to fight them.
What Causes Sudden Cramps During Pregnancy?
There are many reasons why cramps often appear during pregnancy and cause trouble to women. Sometimes cramps are the sign of some possible dysfunctions in woman’s body: from simple lack of certain vitamins/minerals to different pregnancy complications (for example, severe diseases, affecting internal organs). The most common things, causing cramps during pregnancy are listed below.
1. Lack of vital minerals and vitamins (magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6).
This lack is usually caused by:
- very serious poisoning: pregnant patient vomits a lot and loses a huge amount of minerals. Such incidents happen in the early stages of pregnancy;
- sudden increase of the needs of a fast growing embryo (usually this is noticeable when pregnancy reaches its equator);
- uncontrolled and unauthorized intake of certain diuretics;
- unbalanced nutrition: when pregnant patient doesn’t receive the required amount of necessary elements with the food.
2. Sudden decrease of hemoglobin concentration in patient’s blood (or pronounced anemia).
3. Increase or decrease of glucose concentration in woman’s blood. This disease can affect patients with incorrect nutrition regime: when pregnant woman eats rarely, but her portions are huge. If woman likes sweets and bakery a lot, it can also affect her blood sugar level.
4. Varicose veins. This very serious and unpleasant illness often affects women, who stress their lower limbs (for example, if their work requires a lot of walking or standing).
5. Regular drinking of beverages that contain significant amount of caffeine. Caffeine affects muscles, causing them to dehydrate and to strain. This may lead to the appearance of unpleasant and painful cramps.
6. Iliac vein compression syndrome. Pressure of enlarged uterus on the iliac vein increases and the venous outflow is disrupted. No wonder that in this case cramps constantly cause trouble to a pregnant woman. This often happens in the third trimester, when the belly is big enough. The cramps usually appear when pregnant woman lies on her back or on the right side.
7. Various diseases with complications that appear during pregnancy.
How to Help
Usually when such unpleasant and very painful cramps begin, doctors recommend taking these actions as soon as possible:
- when cramps begin, try pulling the fingers of a cramped limb towards you, stretching the cramped muscle. Do it slowly and carefully, but at the same time put strength in this move. After you finish, slowly relax the limb and then start pulling again until the cramps are gone;
- after the cramps weaken, try massaging pained muscle, warming it up. The warmer filled with warm water or ordinary mustard plasters will be enough to warm the muscle. Hot foot bath also can help a lot;
- to restore the blood flood completely you’ll have to walk around the room a little. But try not to overdo it;
- to avoid repeating cramps you have to rest as much as possible. Be sure that your lower limbs are slightly raised during the relaxation. You can use a pillow or a folded blanket to raise your legs.
Cramps Prevention and Treatment
Of course, cramps can be only one of many signs of various disorders in pregnant woman’s body (and sometimes these disorders can be very severe). That’s why you need to contact the doctor immediately if you have cramps. The doctor will be able to identify the cause of such painful muscular contractions and to prescribe an appropriate treatment if necessary. If the cramps are caused by lack of a certain vitamins or minerals in woman’s body, their treatment is usually based on reviewing and further changing of usual nutrition, on adding all necessary products to it. Most experts strongly recommend taking various minerals and vitamin complexes for a long time.
By the way, the daily diet of every pregnant patient must always include the following products: cereals (mainly oat and buckwheat), wholegrain bread and pasta. It is recommended to eat various diary and hard cheeses every day. Daly diet also should include diet meat, steamed vegetables and fish, fruits (raw and dried) and a little amount of nuts. It is necessary to eat frequently to maintain a normal glucose level, but the portions should be small.
To avoid such painful contractions in lower limbs, doctors recommend to follow these advices:
- always wear the most comfortable shoes with a stable low heel (5 cm maximum);
- if you are diagnosed with varicose veins, you should wear special stockings or tights. Your doctor can help you pick them, because the accurate fit is necessary;
- starting from the last trimester try lying on your left side more often or just stock a small pillow under right thigh. This helps to prevent iliac vein compression syndrome mentioned above;
- under any circumstances try to avoid stressing lower limbs too much. If your job requires a lot of standing, you should do special relaxing exercises. These exercises help to restore blood flow in calf muscles. For example, there’s a great exercise: first you have to stand on your toes and remain still for a couple of seconds and then fall on all foot gently. Repeat this exercise several times;
- lie down if you want to rest and raise your legs a little: for example, you can put them on a pillow;
- it is necessary to make a warm feet bath before you go to bed: it will help your leg muscles to relax. You can add sea salt in feet bath, for example.