Pregnancy Symptoms & Complaints: Leg Cramps

Experiencing leg cramps during pregnancy? Sharp and painful, these lower-leg cramps often crop up during the second and third trimesters. Keep reading to find out what causes leg pain during pregnancy--and how to feel better!

What causes leg cramps during pregnancy?

If you've ever had a "charley horse," then you're already familiar with the kind of leg pain that many women encounter during pregnancy. No one is entirely sure why these sharp, unpleasant leg cramps during pregnancy happen -- especially during the second and third trimesters--but doctors theorize that it may have to do with the pressure of the uterus on certain nerves, fatigue, or decreased circulation in your legs from the pressure of the baby on blood vessels. In any case, you may be awakened with sudden painful spasms in your calf muscles (they most often occur at night). They aren't fun, but they're not usually cause for concern, either, unless they persist and are severe, in which case you should tell your healthcare provider.

What relieves leg cramps during pregnancy?

The best treatment for leg cramps is to stand barefoot on a hard floor and lift your toes up. This stretches the calf and can bring fast relief. Or, if you can't stand when a leg cramp strikes, try straightening your leg and gently flex your foot, with toes pointed up and heel down, to stretch out your calf muscle. Don't point your toes--this usually makes the pain worse! Massage the muscle with long, firm strokes toward your foot. If you still feel sore, apply a heating pad or warm washcloth. Exercising daily can help, too.

    Can leg cramps during pregnancy be prevented?

    To prevent painful leg cramps, slowly flex and release your foot ten times before going to bed each night. If you continue be bothered by leg cramps, consider wearing support hose, and avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time without a break.

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