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Restless Legs Syndrome in Pregnancy Linked to Later Risk

Study Shows Higher Risk of Chronic RLS for Women Who Had Condition in Pregnancy
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By Katrina Woznicki
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 6, 2010 -- Women who had restless legs syndrome (RLS) while pregnant were four times more likely to have the condition again after their pregnancies, and were three times more likely to have the chronic form of the condition, according to a small European study.

Researchers led by Mauro Manconi, MD, PhD, from Vita-Salute University in Milan, Italy, and colleagues compared 74 women who had experienced restless legs syndrome during their pregnancies and 133 women who had not.

Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs that sometimes lead to a feeling of needing to move the legs for relief. Symptoms are often worse during the night. The disorder affects about 10% of the U.S. population.

Symptoms of restless legs syndrome can arise during pregnancy and then disappear after childbirth. The incidence of restless legs syndrome among pregnant women ranges from 26% to 30% and often peaks during the third trimester, according to the researchers.

RLS During and After Pregnancy

Study participants were surveyed and asked about their medical history, including symptoms of restless legs syndrome and medications they used within two days after delivery. The women were then followed for an average of 6.5 years to see who developed recurrent restless legs syndrome.

The researchers found that:

  • 24% of women who had restless legs syndrome during pregnancy had the disorder at the end of the study, compared with 8% of women who did not have the syndrome while pregnant.
  • 58% of women who reported restless legs syndrome symptoms while pregnant experienced symptoms again in a future pregnancy, compared with 3% of women who did not have the disorder during a first pregnancy.
  • The incidence of developing the chronic form of restless legs syndrome was 34.4 per 1,000 in the pregnancy-related restless leg syndrome group compared 11.5 per 1,000 among those who did not experience restless legs syndrome during pregnancy.

The study results suggest pregnancy-related restless legs syndrome may signal a risk for developing future transient episodes or even the chronic form of the disorder.

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