So, it is the middle of the night and you are sound asleep. Suddenly, you wake up with a gripping tightness in your calf muscle that sends you sitting upright and grasping your leg in a panic. It takes you a few moments to catch your breath and stretch that poor muscle out.
The cramping of leg muscles is very common during pregnancy, especially during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. The whys of it aren't completely clear, though evidence points to the changing of circulation and the shifting distribution of weight. Not staying hydrated enough can cause cramping. Your balance of electrolytes and nutrients, such as calcium, potassium and magnesium are also suspected of being factors. While studies haven’t been conclusive, some have shown some limited success with magnesium supplements. Some of my students swear by it. Consult with your health care advisor and see if that is right for you. It is also prudent to examine your footwear. For many women, pregnancy brings on an increase in foot size. Make sure you have a pair that is comfortable and not constricting your blood flow. Whatever the reasons for leg cramping, you can take action to help reduce, relieve and/or prevent them from occurring. Prenatal yoga can help!
Like with so many other symptoms of pregnancy, a prenatal yoga class can help you reduce or relieve leg cramps. Through gentle exercise and stretching, prenatal yoga helps improve circulation and keep the muscles supple. You can learn different stretches to help relieve a leg cramp when it occurs. Through breathing techniques and by practicing how to stay calm, you can stay relaxed and not panic when you are suddenly startled awake with a cramp. By practicing stretches before bed and finding time to reduce swelling and taking the weight off the legs, you may reduce the risk of leg cramps.
If you do find yourself waking up in the grips of a leg cramp, do not panic. Take a full deep inhale. Try not to move suddenly and see if you can breathe through the initial moments of the cramp. Simply by breathing and staying calm, the muscles will begin to relax. You may want to apply pressure to the muscle with your thumbs or heel of the hand to release it. After you do this, as calmly as possible, get youself out of bed and do some gentle stretching. If it is the calf muscle, go to a wall and place your hands on the wall. Set the leg with with cramp behind you, and send the heel towards the floor, stretching the calf muscle. Breathe deeply and evenly until the cramp subsides. You can then gently massage the muscle and (hopefully) fall back asleep.
It is important to take time for yourself during pregnancy. Remember to find time to nurture yourself. It wouldn’t hurt to get a massage now and again, either. See a massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage and let the muscles relax!