If you haven’t had a cramp in pregnancy or been woken up terrified by your partner having one, chances are there’s been no pregnancy.
Leg cramps are really common in pregnancy and typically occur in the back half of pregnancy. The exact cause of them is unknown but they think it’s due to a build-up of lactic acid and pyruvic acid. The pain is caused by an intense muscle contraction which most commonly occurs in the calf muscle. So, they cause considerable pain for the person having them and moments of terror for the partner.
What can you do when you get one?
The first thing you can do is try to stretch out your calf muscle by pulling your toe back towards your knee. You can also take a hot shower or bath or use ice massage.
What can you do to prevent them?
Some people take calcium supplements, but there’s actually no evidence that taking calcium prevents let cramps in pregnancy.
Another commonly used supplement is magnesium. There’s no overwhelming evidence of benefit from taking magnesium but there is some suggestion that it may work, so you should take a magnesium citrate or magnesium lactate product twice a day if you think that’s worth a try.
The other thing you should do is stretching. Stretching is preventative. You should hold a calf stretch for 20 seconds and do that three times on each calf, four times a day for the first week and then twice a day for the subsequent weeks of your pregnancy.
You should also seek to maintain your exercise tolerance so that your muscles don’t get deconditioned and keep your hydration up. Doing that should help benefit and reduce the number of cramps that you get.
Dr Brad Robinson
Obstetrician Gynaecologist (OBGYN)
Greenslopes Private Hospital, Brisbane