Leg Cramps in Pregnancy
Written by Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
Many women complain of cramping pain in the legs, more so in the calf muscles, when they are pregnant. The toes may also be affected.
The pain may be less during the day when you are busy with your daily chores and thus getting at least some exercise.
But, at night, or during the day when you are lying down, the cramps can be excruciatingly painful.
In most women, the pain may be mild or moderate with some amount of discomfort, but occasionally it may be severe enough for the muscles in your calf to become as hard as a rock or for your toes to curl uncomfortably under your soles.
Causes of Leg Cramps
- Deficiency of calcium : This is believed to be the main reason for calf muscle cramps. Much of the calcium that you get in your normal diet is used by your body to help develop your baby's bone, teeth and other organs. This decreases your own body's share of calcium, making your bones and muscles weak.
Calcium helps the muscles of the whole body to contract and relax properly. Deficiency can cause abnormalities in the uptake of calcium by the muscles leading to painful cramps.
- Deficiency of other salts and minerals: Deficiency of potassium, iron, and the Vitamin B group can cause cramps.
- Excessive weight gain: The extra weight that you carry in pregnancy puts more pressure on the legs especially the calves. The heavier you are, the more is the pressure. The muscles of the leg have to work more to carry this weight. This extra work leads to collection of lactic acid in the calf muscles, leading to pain.
Leg Cramps in Pregnancy
- Restriction of Blood Circulation: The growing baby and the enlarging uterus presses on the blood vessels of your legs. These blood vessels carry blood, rich in oxygen, from your heart to your legs. Pressure on the blood vessels of the lower body can cause a mild oxygen deficiency in the legs. The pressure can also decrease blood flow back from the legs, leading to pooling of fluid around the ankles with swelling . This can cause cramping pain in the legs.
- Lack of Exercise: Exercise increases blood flow to and from your legs and can prevent cramps. Lack of exercise can hamper blood circulation and can also cause you to put on too much weight - both are causes of leg cramps.
What You can do to Control Leg Cramps
200 ml of whole milk (a standard water glass ) contains about 300 to 350 mg of calcium. Other food that contains calcium are meat and fish, eggs, and vegetables like broccoli and okra (also called ladiesfinger).
Avoid calcium supplements that contain bone meal or dolomite as they may contain dangerous levels of lead.
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