What are the causes of calf cramps during pregnancy, especially at night? How to prevent leg cramps during pregnancy? Find answers to these questions, and more, in this article….
Pregnant women often complain about calf cramps. These cramps are mostly experienced during night, but some may experience leg or calf cramps during the day. The involuntary pulling or sudden contraction of muscle, which creates excruciating pain, is known as cramp. The pain may last for some minutes or even for a few hours. Women usually experience calf cramps from second trimester of pregnancy. The frequency of cramps may increase in the third trimester. Why pregnant women often experience leg cramps, especially calf cramps? The following section provides an answer to this question.
Pregnancy and Calf Cramps
The exact cause of leg cramps during pregnancy is not known but the possible causes include:
- The extra weight of your body on your legs leads to calf cramps.
- Mineral deficiency, vitamin deficiency can cause leg cramps. Processed food lacks in essential vitamins and minerals.
- Scarcity of calcium, magnesium or potassium is believed to be one of the main causes of calf cramps.
- Dehydration, scarcity of water in the body can cause calf cramps in pregnant women. Excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol (work as diuretics) can dehydrate the body.
- Overall fatigue, experienced due to excess weight and hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy, can cause cramps in legs.
- Too much of phosphorous in the body (which is present in processed meat, snacks and soda) is another cause of leg cramps. Phosphorous affects the capacity of the body to absorb calcium from the ingested food.
- Increasing pressure of the expanding uterus on the blood vessels around the uterus (going down/coming up to/from legs) and excess pressure on the blood vessels in the legs leads to calf cramps. Similarly, increasing pressure of the growing uterus on the nerves around the uterus and in the legs results in calf cramps.
Here are some simple home remedies to prevent leg cramps during pregnancy.
- Avoid standing for a long time. Also avoid sitting in a chair for a long time. Sedentary lifestyle can also cause calf cramps. Keep stretching the legs at regular intervals, take leisurely walks after every hour, even if you are a working woman.
- Perform light leg exercises regularly. Stretching of legs early in the morning and before going to sleep helps reduce the chances of having calf cramps. Strolling in the garden, or on a jogging track, is essential during pregnancy.
- Shake the toes back and forth. Rotate the ankles. Stretch the lower legs when sitting in a chair. All these exercises help improve blood circulation in lower legs.
- Follow a healthy diet that is rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe and citrus fruits are some examples of good sources of potassium. Potassium regulates the muscle activity and helps balance body fluids. You also need to avoid or reduce caffeine and sugar from your diet.
- You should drink about eight glasses of water a day. You can also increase the intake of healthy liquids like milk, milkshakes, fruit juices and soups. Avoid soda and alcohol as far as possible.
- Remember, milk and other dairy products are not considered as good calcium sources because they contain phosphorus. Your doctor may prescribe a non-phosphorus containing calcium supplement. Apart from dairy products, fish, seafood, seaweeds, whole grains, leafy vegetables, almonds, figs, etc. can also provide calcium.
- Rice bran, wheat bran, peanut flour, coriander seeds, spinach, pumpkin seeds contain a good amount of magnesium. Include magnesium rich foods in diet.
Calf cramps at night during pregnancy can make you spend sleepless nights. Local massage with sesame oil, mustard oil or olive oil can help relieve the pain. Try to move the leg slowly when the effect of the cramp subsides. Rub the calf area gently in a circular rhythm. This will help release the muscle tension beneath the skin. Try to stretch the calf muscle slowly. Taking a warm bath or shower, applying a heat compress for 10-15 minutes, applying balm or pain relieving cream can help alleviate pain in calf. Cramp related calf pain during pregnancy should normally go away within an hour or two. So, women should not worry about calf cramps during pregnancy. Experiencing leg cramps and calf pain during pregnancy is quite normal.