Leg cramps are one of the most common symptoms women experience when expecting.
As pregnancy progresses, your legs begin carrying extra weight, and your expanding uterus is putting pressure on the veins that return blood from your legs to your heart as well as on the nerves leading from your trunk to your legs, causing cramps.
While there’s no way to eliminate leg cramps during pregnancy completely, these tips may help prevent them from becoming a common occurrence.
How to Prevent Pregnancy Leg Cramps
- No Crossing- Avoid standing or sitting with your legs crossed for long periods, which impedes blood flow to your legs.
- Stretching– Stretch your calf muscles regularly during the day and several times before you go to bed. Don’t point your toes while stretching. It can make the muscle contract and worsen the cramp.
- Leisurely Walking- Take a walk every day – even if it’s just for 10 minutes! Walking encourages proper blood flow and prevents the likelihood of pregnancy leg cramps.
- Left Side Lying- Lie down on your left side to improve circulation to and from your legs.
- Water Drinking- Stay hydrated during the day by drinking water regularly to prevent cramps that may be caused by dehydration.
- Relaxing- Try a warm bath before bed to relax your muscles, or consider taking a magnesium supplement. In addition to a prenatal vitamin, studies show that magnesium may help some women avoid leg cramps. As with anything, check with your Dr. before taking any supplement during pregnancy.
And what should you do if you do experience a leg cramp during pregnancy? If you’re looking to relieve leg cramps during pregnancy, here’s where to start:
- First, stretch your calf muscles immediately by straightening your leg, heel first, and gently flexing your toes back toward your shins. Stretching will help to ease the spasm and slowly relieve the leg cramp.
- After you stretch, massage the muscle or warm it with a hot bath to relax the tissue.
- Lastly, walking around for a few minutes to ensure proper blood flow to the muscle.
Stretches for Leg Cramps:
1. The Seated 4 Stretch
For this stretch, keep one leg extended out straight, and fold the other leg so that the foot rests against the inner thigh. Gently fold forward at the hips and aim to bring the chest toward the outstretched leg. Hold for at least 15 seconds, then switch sides.
Stretches: Gluteus (all 3 parts), Piriformis, Hamstrings, Calf
2. The Seated Spinal Twist
Sit with your left leg extended out in front of you. Cross the right leg over the left leg so that the foot sits flat on the floor. Gently turn your torso to the right, bracing the left arm on top of the right knee, and gently pull into the twist. Hold for at least 15 seconds, then switch sides.
Stretches: Latissimus Dorsi, Gluteus (all 3 parts), Piriformis, and several other smaller muscles
3. The Butterfly
Sit on the floor so that both of the soles of your feet are touching. Allow your knees to fall as far down as comfortable. Pull the heels of your feet in toward your torso. Gently fold forward at your hips and think about bringing your chest toward the ground. Hold for at least 15 seconds.
Stretches: Adductor muscles (aka inner thighs)
Minimalist Guide: Ease yourself into each stretch nice and slowly. As you exhale, feel your body relaxing and sinking deeper into the stretch. Hold each stretch for as long as you need to (a minimum of 15s) and complete the stretch circuit 2-3 times as you need (more or less depending on you – listen to your body!).
Epsom Salt Bath for Leg Cramps
If you’re looking for a natural way to soothe sore muscles and decrease the experience of leg cramps, in addition to regular stretching and walking, Epsom salt is a great thing to add to your routine.
Epsom salts are made up of magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, and as salts, this compound helps to pull excess fluids out of the tissues, reducing swelling and decreasing cramps.
Magnesium assists the body in reducing inflammation and helping muscle and nerve function. Sulfates help to improve the absorption of nutrients, flush toxins, and improve blood flow.
Together, they form a powerhouse knockout for leg cramps.
A common way to relieve muscle soreness and cramps is to take an Epsom salt bath.
How to Have an Epsom Salt Bath:
Dissolve a cup or two of Epsom salt in a warm tub of water and soak for 15 minutes or until the water has cooled, up to three times per week. (Note: this is not recommended for those with health conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure, or diabetes.)