Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ouch, leg cramps

All preggies know this too well

This morning I was jolted awake with a searing pain through my right calf. In my half conscious state, I screamed out loud in pain. DH bolted up from bed (preggies should refrain from screaming in the middle of the night, if not in labour). I pointed to my leg and yelped, ‘Leg cramp’. He promptly massaged my calf while I flexed my feet to help stretch the calf muscle. The sharp cramp quickly subsided but it was a couple more minutes before the mild cramping dissipated.
Why do leg cramps happen?
Every one of us would have experienced leg cramps at one point or several times in our lives. For those of us who had dance training, you would remember all too vividly the frequent leg cramps from the constant pointing.
I have read that leg cramps plague women more often in their pregnancies. This frequently starts from the second trimester onwards. Why is this so?
Several possible reasons are:
  • The fatigue from carrying around the extra weight we have gained during pregnancy
  • The expanding uterus putting pressure on the blood vessels which return blood from your legs to your heart and the nerves that lead from your trunk to your legs
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of calcium
Tips for keeping the leg cramps away:
  • Stay hydrated during the day by drinking sufficient water
  • Taking a calcium supplement
  • Take a warm bath before bed to improve circulation and to relax muscle
  • Stretch your calves regularly during the day and before going to bed
  • Sleep on your left side to improve circulation
  • Do some gentle exercise or take a walk everyday unless you have been ordered bed rest by your obstetrician
  • Avoid standing or sitting with your legs crossed for long periods in the later half of your pregnancy
I have been active throughout my pregnancy and religiously drinking plenty of water and taking my pre-natal supplements. Yet I have suffered leg cramps twice so far. So if you are like me, some ways you can relieve the pain during a cramp are:
  • Stretch your calf muscle out. It may sound counter-intuitive but stretching the cramping muscle is a faster way to relieve the cramp. Straighten your leg if it’s not already straight and flex your toes back
  • Massage the cramp spot in vertical motion towards and away from the heels
  • Use a hot water bottle to soothe the aching muscle or hop to the shower area and run warm water over the aching muscle (I find this method most difficult to execute when you experience a searing calf cramp in the middle of the night)
Wish me luck that the leg cramp monster stay away.
Mayo Clinic
What to expect when you are expecting

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