Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

The gift of carrying a life within you is one of the greatest experiences in a woman’s life. However, this gift is not without sacrifices. There are emotional as well physical costs to the woman in carrying a child. One of these is painful cramps which often disturb a pregnant woman’s sleep during late pregnancy.

Leg cramps occur when your muscles contract involuntarily. Cramps can occur in the legs, calves, feet, or all of the above. Leg cramps are common for women during the second and third trimester of pregnancy,  but if they come frequently and intensely, inform your doctor immediately since these can also be signs of early labor.


What Causes Leg Cramps?

Specialists believe that there is no one cause for leg cramps during pregnancy and it can fact be a number of things. One cause can be the extra weight your body is carrying around.   At the end of the second trimester your baby can weigh over 2 pounds  or more and then go through a growth spurt until birth.  Moms generally gain 1/2 to a pound each and every week during this stage with generally a gain of about 15-20 pounds for mom during at the end of the 2nd trimester.  Imagine having to carry that extra weight around all the time.

It is also possible that your growing abdomen is putting pressure on nerves connected to your legs and lower extremities. This can be a cause for the painful leg contractions as well.

Cramps can also be a sign that you lack essential electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium.

Other researchers think there could be some connections between decreased blood flow in the legs causing substances such as lactic acids and pyruvic acids to accumulate in the body. This extra build up can potentially cause muscle cramps.

Pregnant woman in kitchen with glass of water smilingHow Can you Prevent Leg Cramps During Your Pregnancy:


Aside from maintaining a diet that provides all the essential needs of mother and fetus at the last trimester, a good way of preventing cramps is exercise. Daily walking is beneficial for the pregnant mother’s circulation as well as preparing her muscles for birth.

Stretching: Since cramps often attack when the pregnant woman is asleep, it is best prevented by doing a few stretching exercises before you sleep. You can try flexing your toes and rotating them for each leg. A few rounds or five to ten minutes of these will do. When the cramps start, you can stretch your toes towards you and massage the contracting muscle.

Magnesium supplementation: Always check with your physician first before adding any supplement to your diet, but some research has shown that taking extra magnesium before bedtime  in the form of a supplement could help prevent leg cramps at night during pregnancy. Adding good sources of magnesium to your diet such as those found in green leafy vegetables such spinach, whole grains, nuts, beans, avocado, shellfish, or chocolate can sometimes also be useful. Again, check with your doctor before modifying your diet or adding any type of supplement or medication.

Exercise: Daily walking is beneficial for the pregnant mother’s circulation as well as preparing her muscles for birth. Make sure however that any exercise that you do is permitted by doctor and will not in any way harm or endanger your pregnancy.

Hydration: Cramps can also occur if you are dehydrated. And with all the extra demands on you during your pregnancy both physical and emotional, it’s no wonder that you may just simply not remember to get enough water. The color of your urine should be almost clear or just slightly yellow. If it is a dark yellow color, this could signal that you’re not consuming enough water. Always consult your physician for recommendations on how much water you should be drinking each day.

Choosing the Right Footwear: Shoes can also make a huge difference with regards to cramping of the toes, foot and leg muscles. Staying away from high heels or those with lack of room for your toes, and wearing shoes that are supportive can also be helpful.

Other Helpful Hints for Getting Through a Painful Leg Cramp: Sometimes changing temperature can help your muscles relax. Either taking a hot shower, warm bath, or even putting ice on the area that’s cramping can sometimes get you through the painful cramp. Keeping your legs elevated could also be helpful, or stretching the muscle out so that it does not stay contracted can also be useful.

Whatever the cause may be, make sure you approach your doctor about your leg cramps so that you and your physician can put some plans in place to help reduce the incidences of leg cramping during pregnancy and give you some interventions to use if you find yourself with a leg cramp in the middle of the night.  Leg Cramps can often times be minimized or prevented, so plan ahead and speak to your doctor.