Restless leg syndrome and pregnancy
About 26 percent of pregnant women have restless leg syndrome (RLS), according to a report published in the
RLS can cause unpleasant sensations in your legs and an uncontrollable urge to move them. And it can interfere with your sleep.
Doctors aren’t sure why pregnant women are prone to RLS. It may be related to a dopamine imbalance, mineral deficiencies, or hormonal changes. If you develop RLS during pregnancy, your symptoms will likely go away within weeks of delivery.
In the meantime, home remedies may help you relieve your symptoms and get some quality sleep.
RLS may cause strange and unpleasant sensations in your legs. Some people describe it as a pulling, throbbing, irritating, or painful feeling. It also causes a powerful, sometimes uncontrollable, urge to move your legs.
Symptoms occur during long periods of inactivity. For example, you may notice them while you’re traveling, sitting in a movie theater, or trying to sleep.
They can also make it almost impossible to get a good night’s rest. This can leave you feeling fatigued, adding to the other discomforts of your third trimester of pregnancy.
Finding a comfortable position may also help you sleep through the night. By your third trimester of pregnancy, sleeping on your front is impossible, while sleeping on your back adds a lot of pressure to your lower back and veins.
Sleeping on your left side is the best choice for blood circulation. If you tend to roll over during the night, try placing a pillow behind your back. This will keep you from landing on your back, while providing some extra support.
For added comfort, place a pillow between your knees.
Practicing good sleep habits may help you get the rest you need.
Try to follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning.
Just before you hit the sack, do something you find relaxing for 30 minutes or more. For example, meditate, read, or listen to soothing music. Turn off digital devices and glowing screens that can interfere with your sleep.
It may also help to create a comfortable sleeping environment. Keep your room clean, cool, and dark for optimal sleep. And change your pillowcases, sheets, and nightclothes regularly.
Have everything you need, such as extra pillows, close at hand.
Find time early in the day for some moderate exercise, such as walking. Try not to spend too much time sitting or standing in one position. Get up, move around, and stretch often.
When your legs bother you, soak them in warm water or ask someone to massage them.
You could also try alternating heat and cold to alleviate symptoms.
Nutrient deficiencies may contribute to some cases of RLS. To help treat your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe supplements or changes to your diet.
For example, your doctor may recommend taking magnesium supplements. They may also encourage you to eat more magnesium-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fortified cereals.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, pregnant teens between the ages of 14 and 18 years old need 400 mg of magnesium per day. Pregnant women between 19 and 30 years of age need 350 mg, while those over 31 years old need 360 mg.
Talk to your doctor before taking magnesium supplements. Magnesium can interact with some medications and large doses can be harmful.
Your doctor may also encourage you to take iron supplements or eat iron-rich foods. For example, they may advise you to eat more lean red meat, poultry, or fish.
Fortified breakfast cereals, beans, and some vegetables are also rich sources of iron.
The Office of Dietary Supplements advises pregnant women to get 27 mg of iron per day.
Some muscle relaxants, sleep aids, and narcotics can help relieve the symptoms of RLS. But these are very powerful medications. Your doctor probably won’t prescribe them for RLS when you’re pregnant, at least not until potential underlying conditions have been ruled out.
Your doctor will more likely recommend home remedies or a mild pain reliever to treat your RLS while you’re pregnant. If your symptoms haven’t cleared within a month of delivery, make an appointment with your doctor.