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Restless Leg Syndrome in Pregnancy

Restless Leg Syndrome in Pregnancy BodyICE Australia


Pregnancy. Such a wonderful gift and such a different experience for every mother. On one hand, you spend nine months of absolute maternal bliss, growing and connecting with your little baby inside. On the other, you also have to deal with all the not-so-great symptoms that pregnancy brings. Morning sickness, heart burn, the constant pee-ing, sore boobs, sore back…. the list goes on. Some are manageable, some painful, and others can just be down-right irritating and uncomfortable.

One of the more irritating pregnancy related symptoms is Restless Leg Syndrome. As if getting up to empty your continuously full bladder 5 times a night isn’t enough, many expecting mums have legs that just won’t keep still.  Restless Leg Syndrome can be explained as the uncontrollable urge to move your legs. It can be a tingling, burning or crawling sensation that only gives up with movement.

Restless Leg Syndrome unfortunately presents itself when you are about to sleep, or are in a restful state. The symptoms usually show up in the lower legs, but at times can be felt in the feet, hands, thighs and arms. While not necessarily a painful disorder, it can be really frustrating. Experiencing Restless Leg Syndrome during the night can keep you up and leave you exhausted the next day. There are many symptoms of the syndrome, other than the crawling, burning or tingling sensation that appears out of nowhere. While movement of the legs might relieve the symptoms, they usually just come back as soon as you stop moving!

Fortunately, it is only temporary. Most cases of Restless Leg Syndrome only appear around the 7-8 month mark, and then disappear close to the due date or soon after the baby is born. Not only pregnant women are affected by it either – men, women and children can all battle with Restless Leg Syndrome, but it does happen more sporadically during pregnancy.

There really isn’t one reason why it occurs for some women during pregnancy, especially for women who have never suffered with it before.  Some theories include an iron or folate deficiency, hormonal changes and even disruptions in the normal circulatory system.

There aren’t any medicines that are proven to help relieve the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome nor would it be safe to take them if you are pregnant,  however, there are some things you can do to try and cut down the frequency:

Eliminate caffeine from your diet

Or lessen your intake. Caffeine could be worsening the effects of the disorder and by cutting back you could decrease the frequency and severity.

Avoid lying down or sitting still for extended periods of time.

Lounging on the couch before bed (as tempting as this is when you are heavily pregnant) makes you more likely to experience Restless Leg Syndrome while you sleep. Light exercise and stretching may also help. Keeping your blood flowing properly and your legs active can help reduce the tingling, burning urges. Take a slow walk around the block, or try some light yoga stretches before bedtime.

Talk to your doctor

Speak to your medical practitioner or midwife about trying additional supplements like iron, magnesium and folate. The extra vitamins and supplements may help reduce the symptoms.

Hot or cold therapy

Hot and cold packs are also great for offering relief. Our Medium or Large Universal packs can be applied to the legs – either hot or cold depending on what provides you with more relief. The heat will help encourage circulation and the cold will soothe any aches or pains, and take the edge off the discomfort.

Restless Leg Syndrome isn’t necessarily painful or debilitating, but it can be really irritating, frustrating and sleep depriving. The last thing you need after falling asleep for the tenth time is the urge to get up and stretch your legs – as if pregnancy isn’t tiring enough on its own! The only way to get through it is by avoiding triggers such as caffeine and extended periods of lying down, and to keep your legs moving, stretching and using light exercise as a deterrent. Hot and cold therapy will also help keep circulation up and soothe the niggles.

Restless Leg Syndrome should disappear before your baby is born, and if not, it generally stops soon after birth. Just think of it as a temporary annoyance and soon enough you’ll be holding your baby for the first time, in newborn bliss and it will all be worth it.

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