Shake A Leg

One of the most aggravating symptoms of pregnancy is leg cramps. You figure you're going to be spending a lot of nights rocking and nursing a baby after the birth, and you feel you should at least be able to sleep through the night until you deliver. But no, it's not to be. You're up every night, around the same time, with uncomfortable leg cramps.

What causes these sleep-disturbing leg cramps and what can you do about them? The truth is that no one really knows what makes legs cramp in pregnancy. There are theories: Your leg muscles are played out from carrying all that extra weight around all day, or perhaps it's that your ever-growing uterus is pressing down on the blood vessels that circulate the blood from your legs to your heart and on the nerves that travel from your abdomen to your legs. But no one knows for sure just why this symptom plagues pregnant women.

Second Trimester

The cramps tend to begin during the second trimester, worsening as the pregnancy progresses and your abdomen grows larger. While cramps can strike any time, they are much more noticeable at night. But you may just be able to avoid them. Here's how:

*Try not to stand for long periods

*Don’t cross your legs for lengthy periods of time

*Make a point of stretching your calf muscles at regular intervals throughout the day and just before you retire to bed

Wiggle And Rotate

*Wiggle your toes and rotate those ankles while engaged in sedentary activities

*Take a daily walk, unless your health care professional advises otherwise

*Don't allow yourself to get to the point of extreme fatigue

*Sleep on your left side to improve circulation

Stay Hydrated

*Drink plenty of water

*Take a warm bath before going to sleep

*Check with your doctor about adding a magnesium supplement to your regular prenatal vitamins. Some evidence suggests this can help prevent leg cramps.

Calcium Myth

Some women swear by calcium supplements for the relief of cramps and there is a coexistent belief that the cramps are due to a calcium deficiency. However, there is no evidence to support these claims and in one study, the placebo provided women more relief than the calcium supplements.

So what can you do to get some relief? Here are some tips for coping with cramps:

*The minute you feel a cramp coming on start stretching your calf muscles. Hold your leg out straight, using your heel to extend your leg as far as you can, then arch your foot so your toes point toward your shins. This may be painful at first, but will serve to calm the spasm that is causing the pain.

*Massage your calf muscles.

Apply Heat

*Apply heat with a hot water bottle.

*Walk for several minutes.

If the pain just won't go away, or you see signs of swelling or feel tender spots on your leg, call your doctor. These are signs that a blood clot may be present, and blood clots are a medical emergency. While clots are rare, pregnancy does place you at a greater risk for this complication.

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