Restless leg syndrome is an uncomfortable pregnancy symptom that strikes in the second and third trimester. Having restless legs can make it difficult for you to sleep. This problem tends to be worse in the seventh and eighth month of your pregnancy, or roughly between 28 and 32 weeks pregnant. Fortunately, this symptom goes away within a month of you giving birth.
If you’ve ever had restless leg syndrome when you’re PMSing, you know exactly how unbearable and uncomfortable it can be. And right before your period, restless leg syndrome only lasts less than a week. For pregnant women, they can feel this discomfort for months.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome
Whether you’re pregnant or not, restless leg syndrome (RLS for short) is the uncontrollable urge to move your legs. It can also feel like you have a jittery feeling in your legs. Some women describe the sensation of restless leg as a burning, tugging or creeping-crawling inside of the legs. The only way to relieve the discomfort is to constantly move it. When you stop moving your feet, your symptoms intensify. Restless leg syndrome in pregnancy can disrupt your sleep and contribute to overall fatigue and exhaustion.
Your restless leg symptoms typically appear when you’re about to go to bed. You may feel this condition in your thighs, lower legs, and feet. If you’ve been spending a lot of time up and about, you may find that your restless legs feel worse.
An estimated 5 to 10 percent of all adults in the United States suffer from RLS, and pregnancy is considered one of the causes of this condition.
Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome During Pregnancy
There are a number of theories behind what causes restless leg syndrome, but no one knows for sure what exactly causes this uncomfortable, jumpy and achy sensation.
When you’re pregnant, you may suffer from restless leg syndrome due to an iron deficiency. You may have lower levels of stored iron in your body, and since your red blood cells require iron to carry oxygen to your developing infant, your iron stores can be easily zapped up in pregnancy. In addition, you have double the amount of blood in your pregnant body, so unless you get enough iron into your system, this iron deficiency can cause you to experience restless legs.
Another possible reason why pregnant women are prone to restless leg syndrome has to do with your hormones. Hormonal fluctuations in pregnancy, which contribute to every other pregnancy symptom in pregnancy (such as morning sickness, hot flashes, and etc.), can also cause you to experience restless leg syndrome.
There is also a genetic component to restless leg syndrome. If the other women in your family have suffered from restless legs in their pregnancy, there is a good chance that you’ll have it during your own.
Home Remedies for Restless Leg Syndrome
Regardless of what causes restless leg syndrome, it’s not a fun experience. You probably want to get rid of this pregnancy symptom at all costs. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to completely prevent or treat this symptom. The medication that is typically used to treat restless leg syndrome in non-pregnant women are not safe when you’re pregnant with a child.
Avoid caffeine if at all possible. Studies have shown that even a small amount of caffeine, such as drinking a small cup of coffee, can make restless leg syndrome worse. This is because caffeine dehydrates you. Plus, caffeine isn’t good for your baby. Cut out all caffeine from your diet. This includes chocolate, tea, soft drinks, and coffee.
Massage or stretch your legs before bedtime. When you have restless legs, sometimes it helps to stretch your legs before you go to bed. Ask your husband or partner to give you a leg massage. This will also give you some relief. If your significant other is kind enough, ask him to massage your legs until you fall asleep. Not only will leg massages relax you, but they will make your achy legs feel much better.
Take a warm bath, or use hot and cold packs. Some pregnant women find that they get relief from their restless leg syndrome if they take a soak in a warm bathtub. Apply heat to the affected legs may also give you some relief and help you cope with this annoying pregnancy symptom.
Ask your healthcare provider about supplements. If restless leg syndrome is a problem for you in pregnancy, ask your midwife or OB if you can take an additional iron, vitamin B12, folate, or magnesium supplement. Sometimes, you may already have these supplements in your prenatal vitamin. Your specific doctor or midwife can give you advice based on your specific situation.