Leg Cramps and Leg Pain

If you have painful leg cramps, you're not alone. Many pregnant women have them in the second or third trimester, often at night. No one knows for sure why women get more leg cramps during pregnancy. It may have to do with changes in blood circulation and stress on your leg muscles from carrying extra weight. Your growing baby also puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels that go to your legs. And some doctors say low calcium, or a change in the way your body processes calcium, may cause cramps. Leg cramps usually go away within a few minutes.

Call Doctor If:

  • You have swelling, tenderness, redness, or warmth in the leg.
  • The pain doesn't go away.
  • You have trouble walking.
  • You think you need to take calcium supplements.

Step-by-Step Care:

  • Do calf stretches. Stretch with your heels flexed. Stretch before bed if you get cramps at night.
  • If you get a cramp, straighten your leg, heel first, and wiggle your toes. Gently massage your calf to relax the muscle.
  • Avoid sitting or standing in one position for a long time. Move around. Don't sit with your legs crossed or other ways that may hamper blood flow.
  • Take a walk every day or do other regular exercise to prevent cramping, with your doctor's OK.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep your muscles hydrated.
  • If you get cramps at night, take a bath before bed to relax leg muscles.
  • When you have a cramp, put a warm towel or hot water bottle on the area.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on June 01, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health: "Pregnancy: Body Changes and Discomforts."

Nemours Foundation: "Parent Questions & Answers."

March of Dimes: "Your Pregnant Body: Leg Cramps."

UCSF: Coping With Common Discomforts of Pregnancy."

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