There's no doubt about it— pregnancy is a beautiful experience; however, it isn't always easy. Pregnancy brings many challenges and changes to a woman's body, and legs are not exempt from these changes.
What are leg cramps?
Leg cramps are sudden, intense, involuntary muscle pain that usually affects the calf muscles and/or feet. Leg cramps are a common complaint during the second and third trimesters. They can interfere with daily activities, disrupt sleep, and reduce the quality of life. Leg cramps are more common at night when legs and feet are tired.
Why are leg cramps common during pregnancy?
Nobody knows for sure why leg cramps are common during pregnancy. Leg cramps might be caused due to:
- increased weight
- calcium deficiency
- being less/more active
Can leg cramps be prevented?
The following steps may assist in preventing them:
Stretch your calf muscles
Stand facing a wall, at arm's length, place your hands on the wall in front of you and move your left foot behind your right foot. Keep your back straight, shoulders back, and chest up. Bend your right leg forward while keeping your left knee straight and your left heel on the floor. Don't lean forward at the waist. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Don't rotate your feet inward or outward. Switch legs and repeat.
Walking or swimming might help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy. You can also try the following exercises to improve blood circulation and prevent cramps in the calf muscles:
- calf raises
- spot walking
- rotating your ankles ten times one way and ten times the other
- bending and stretching your foot vigorously up and down 30 times
Make sure you discuss with your doctor before starting any exercise regime.
Drinking plenty of fluids during pregnancy is essential to prevent dehydration and may help prevent cramps. Look for signs of dehydration, like dark yellow pee (your pee should be relatively clear or light yellow if you are properly hydrated).
Choose proper footwear
- Choose comfortable, supportive footwear
- Avoid wearing the same shoes throughout the day
Tips for buying footwear during pregnancy
- Shop late in the day
- Choose footwear with a firm heel
- Avoid high heels; you can choose footwear with a heel height of about 3cm
- Choose shoes with a round or a square toe
- Avoid shoes with fiddly straps
- Take your time, don't rush when buying shoes
When to talk to your doctor
If you're experiencing painful cramps, talk to your doctor.
- Ontario Podiatric Medical Association. Pregnancy & Foot [Internet]. Available at: http://www.opma.ca/Pregnancy-&-Foot. Accessed on Aug 14, 2020.
- Mayo Clinic. What causes leg cramps during pregnancy, and can they be prevented? [Internet]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expe.... Accessed on Aug 14, 2020.
- Zhou K, West HM, Zhang J, Xu L, Li W. Interventions for leg cramps in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015(8).
- Healthdirect Australia. Pregnancy, Baby and Birth. Leg cramps during pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/leg-cramps-during-pregnancy. Accessed on Aug 14, 2020.
- The College of Podiatry. Foot Health in Pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://cop.org.uk/foot-health/keep-on-walking/foot-health-in-pregnancy/. Accessed on Aug 14, 2020.