Leg Cramps During Pregnancy: Causes & Remedies

Leg Cramps During Pregnancy: Causes & Remedies

Leg cramps during pregnancy left you without a leg to stand on? You’re not alone.

Luckily, you’re getting the best sleep of your life, so this is just a minor inconvenience.

Okay, okay! We’re just pulling your leg. It’s nothing like that.

There’s already a multitude of zzzz interruptions in your life and leg cramping during pregnancy is yet another.

What fun.

So who invited these excruciating visitors, and what can you do to send them packing?

Let’s take a look.

In this article: 📝

  • What is a common cause of leg cramps during pregnancy?
  • What is DVT in pregnancy?
  • Can walking too much during pregnancy cause cramping?
  • What foods trigger leg cramps?
  • Are leg cramps bad during pregnancy?
  • How do you get rid of leg cramps during pregnancy?
  • Does leg cramps mean labor?
  • How can I prevent leg cramps at night during pregnancy?

What is a common cause of leg cramps during pregnancy?

Leg cramps during pregnancy can stem from a variety of different sources, ranging from circulation issues; to mineral deficiencies (think potassium, calcium, magnesium); to that little one inside you getting on your nerves (literally).

They can strike various parts of the leg and foot:

Right leg pain during pregnancy

Whether you get right or left leg pain during pregnancy doesn’t mean anything specific ‒ it’s more about where in your leg you feel the leg cramps during pregnancy, rather than which side.

If you’re struggling with right leg pain during pregnancy, try massaging or stretching your right leg to alleviate the pain.

Left leg pain during pregnancy

You can get left leg pain during pregnancy just as often as you can get right leg pain during pregnancy.

But if you’re left-handed, you might have a subconscious preference for your left side, which can mean that you’re putting more pressure on your left leg, which can lead to left leg pain during pregnancy.

A massage, stretching, and drinking some water should help relieve the pressure.

Leg cramps in pregnancy: first trimester

Some women might experience more leg cramps during early pregnancy.

If you think this could be you, don’t worry, it’s totally normal.

Although leg cramps during pregnancy are more common during the second and third trimester, they can happen in the first trimester, or even before you know you’re pregnant.

According to a study in 1981, in early pregnancy, the way your body processes calcium changes, which can cause some leg cramps in early pregnancy.

Leg cramps during pregnancy third trimester

When it comes to leg cramps during pregnancy, the third trimester is where it’s at.

It could be down to the added pressure of blood circulation around your growing body (after all, there’s a whole human growing in there!) or the stress on your leg muscles from carrying the extra weight.

And then there’s the potential nerve compression.

Pressure on the nerves in the spine also can cause cramping pain in the legs, and this pain usually gets worse with walking.

Whatever the reason for your leg cramps in the third trimester, you can try these leg pain relief tips to see what works for you:

  • Invest in a leg roller to ease out the leg cramps and knots.
  • Take a warm (not hot) bath.
  • Indulge in a pregnancy-safe massage.
  • Drink some water to rehydrate because sometimes, leg cramps during pregnancy can be caused by dehydration.
  • Walking bent slightly forward, such as when pushing a shopping cart, might ease leg cramping from nerve compression.

Calf pain during pregnancy

If you’re wondering whether calf pain during pregnancy is common, yes, indeed it is.

Those weird little spasms are an oh-so-specific kind of torture, and the pain can be surprisingly severe.

This particular breed of cramping can be the result of the extra weight that pregnancy has gifted you or something as mundane as shoes that aren’t doing the right thing for you.

Foot pain during pregnancy

Foot pain during pregnancy can feel disproportionately agonizing.

Often coming in short bursts, these cramps can be seriously disruptive, both when you’re going about your day as well as when you’re trying to sleep.

While it’s more common for leg cramps during pregnancy to happen in the second and third trimesters, unfortunately, mamas-to-be are not off the hook when they’re closer to the starting line.

The bright side?

If leg cramps in early pregnancy strike, you’ll be well versed in how to deal with them by the time you get to the end.

What is DVT in pregnancy?

As we know, sore legs are a common complaint during pregnancy.

They can be caused by a number of things, including the weight of your growing baby, hormonal changes, and increased blood volume.

In some cases, however, sore legs can be a sign of something more serious, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

DVT is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg.

It’s a serious condition, but it’s also treatable.

If you’re pregnant, you’re at an increased risk of developing DVT.

This is because pregnancy can lead to changes in your blood that make it more likely to clot.

What are the symptoms of DVT in pregnancy?

The most common symptom of DVT in pregnancy is pain, swelling, and tenderness in one leg.

The pain may be worse when you walk or move your leg.

Other symptoms of DVT can include:

  • Warmth in the affected area
  • Redness in the affected area
  • A feeling of heaviness in the affected leg
  • A visible vein that appears enlarged
  • Bluish toes

If you think you might have DVT, it’s important to see your doctor right away.

DVT can be a serious condition, but it’s also treatable.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications, such as a pulmonary embolism (PE), which is a blood clot that travels to the lungs.

How to prevent DVT in pregnancy

There are a few things you can do to help prevent DVT during pregnancy:

  • Stay active. Walking and other forms of exercise help to keep your blood flowing.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. If you have to sit for a long time, get up and move around every hour or so.
  • Wear support stockings or compression socks. While they’re not the most fashionable accessory, they can help to improve blood flow in your legs.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. This will help to keep your blood from getting too thick.

If you have any risk factors for DVT, such as a family history of the condition or a history of blood clots, talk to your doctor about how to reduce your risk as soon as you can ‒ even before trying to conceive.

Can walking too much during pregnancy cause cramping?

Yes, while walking is generally a great way to stay active during pregnancy, you can overdo it.

If you’re walking for long distances or at a high intensity, you might start to feel cramps in your legs.

This is because your body is working hard to pump blood to your baby, and your muscles may not be used to the extra activity.

If you start to feel cramps, it’s best to stop walking and rest.

You can also try stretching your legs or massaging them.

If the cramps are severe or don’t go away after a few minutes, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor.

What foods trigger leg cramps?

Certain foods can trigger muscle cramps, like leg pain, during pregnancy.

Here are some foods you may want to avoid if you’re keen to prevent leg cramps during pregnancy:

  • Salty foods: Salty foods can make your blood pressure go up, which can put stress on your muscles and make them more likely to cramp.
  • Foods high in saturated and trans fats: Processed foods are often low in nutrients and high in unhealthy fats and sugars, which can contribute to muscle cramps.
  • Sugary foods: Sugary foods can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, which can lead to muscle cramps.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine can dehydrate you, which can make leg cramps more likely. So if you’re a coffee or tea drinker, try cutting back or switching to decaf.

It’s also a good idea to swap white grains for brown or whole grains, like brown bread instead of white bread, or brown rice instead of white ‒ these complex carbohydrates can help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy.

Note: While some people believe that the high levels of protein and sodium can lead to muscle cramps%20and%20hyponatremia%20(EAH).), there’s no scientific evidence to say that eating lots of red meat can cause leg cramps in pregnancy.

Are leg cramps bad during pregnancy?

Sorry to say, but sometimes, yes, leg pains during pregnancy can be bad.

As in last-for-days bad.

But if your pregnancy leg cramps look red, feel warm, or are accompanied by any swelling, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor, because it could be an indicator of something more serious, like DVT.

What week do leg cramps start in pregnancy?

Generally, leg cramps in pregnancy tend to start around the second and third trimesters.

This is because the weight of your growing baby puts pressure on your nerves and blood vessels, which can lead to muscle cramps.

But many other pregnant people get leg cramps sooner than that ‒ there’s no one-size-fits-all to this pregnancy thing, after all.

How long do leg cramps last during pregnancy?

The actual pregnancy leg cramps themselves could last anywhere from just a couple of seconds (that short, sharp pain that really wakes you up) to 15 minutes and can ebb and flow over a few days, at its worst.

How do you get rid of leg cramps during pregnancy?

If you’re wondering ‘Seriously, how do you get rid of leg cramps during pregnancy?’, the good news is that there are a bunch of home remedies to help you.

Hopefully, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.

Try these:

  • Get moving. Although this may be the last thing you feel like with pregnancy leg cramps, getting some good old-fashioned exercise can go a long way. And don’t stress. There is no marathon running or heavy training on the menu. Little walks around the block? Yoga? Sounds like a plan.
  • Get hydrated. Dehydration can be the cause of all sorts of cramps, even pregnancy leg cramps. Try upping your liquid intake, and see if that helps. (Just don’t drink too much too quickly or your digestive system may respond with an evacuation order.)
  • Get nourished. Leg cramps during pregnancy can be the result of a nutrient deficiency, most specifically of magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Speak to your doctor about supplements and/or up your intake of some pretty delicious sources. Who doesn’t love avocado on everything? Nuts, fish, and all things green are a good idea here too.

Do bananas help with leg cramps during pregnancy?

It’s a popular adage: bananas help with leg cramps during pregnancy.

Sure, bananas are full of great nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and calcium, all of which can help prevent muscle cramps.

So, while bananas don’t help get rid of pregnancy leg cramps, they can help prevent them.

What is the best vitamin for leg cramps?

Well, there are a few different vitamins and minerals that can help prevent pregnancy leg cramps, but there’s no single vitamin that helps with leg pain during pregnancy.

It’s all about having a healthy, balanced diet, and getting regular exercise.

But a few vitamins that you should make sure are part of your pregnancy diet plan or prenatal vitamin supplements include:

  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Electrolytes
  • Sodium
  • Phosphorus
  • Iron
  • B vitamins

🔍Read More: Can I Take Magnesium When Pregnant?

What is the best home remedy for leg cramps?

There’s no single remedy for leg cramps during pregnancy ‒ after all, every body is different, and your body’s reason for conjuring up pregnancy leg cramps could be different from someone else’s.

But feel free to try these home remedies for leg cramps during pregnancy to see what works for you:

  • Take a warm bath (not too hot, as this can harm baby).
  • Stretch your aching leg.
  • Massage and knead the muscle of the pregnancy leg cramp.
  • Drink a big glass of water.
  • Take a gentle stroll.
  • Put a heating pad on the leg cramp.
  • Put some ice wrapped in a towel on the leg cramp.
  • Take some paracetamol if it’s persistent.

Does leg cramps mean labor?

Sometimes, yes.

Leg cramps with lower back pressure and an urge to push could be an indicator that labor’s on its way!

If you have any two of these three symptoms in your third trimester, make sure your hospital bags are packed, because labor could be just around the corner!

🔎 Dig deeper: Signs That Labor is 24–48 Hours Away

How can I prevent leg cramps at night during pregnancy?

If you have leg cramps during pregnancy while sleeping, that can seriously affect how much you can rest, especially in your third trimester.

You need all the sleep you can get!

A good calf stretch before bed can go a long way toward preventing leg cramps at night during pregnancy.

And if you’re still attacked by the dreaded spasms, a hot bath or shower may do well to relieve your immediate tension.

It may also help to take a little walk around your room, and then elevate your leg after that.

Or if you have a partner at the ready who is willing to give you a little massage, don’t think twice about taking them up on the offer.

This is no time to put on a brave face.

If you’re struggling with leg cramps during pregnancy, don’t suffer in silence ‒ share your woes with our mamas-to-be on Peanut.

You might just find the secret pregnancy leg cramps remedy you’ve been after all this time.


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