Restless Legs Syndrome during Pregnancy

It’s a tough time to get quality shut-eye between heartburn, an insistent case of pregnancy insomnia, that urgent need to use the loo every two hours, and leg cramps. In your third trimester of pregnancy, another symptom is keeping you up all night; Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS).

If you are one of the 15% of a pregnant woman who experiences RLS, you will notice an uncomfortable tingling and crawling in your legs. The sensation could be accompanied by an urge to move them especially as you are trying to sleep. Your legs may seem to take on a life of their own like they are plugged into an electrical socket.

When does RLS start in a pregnant woman?

Even though you may notice the RLS at night, it still strikes any time particularly when you’re sitting or lying down. Most of the time, you won’t experience it until later in your pregnancy, specifically during your third trimester.

The usual treatment for leg cramps might be stretching and flexing which may not work. Also, prescription medications to relieve restlessness may be off-limits during pregnancy.

What causes RLS in a pregnant women?

According to experts, the causes of this type of condition are not yet known, but genetics is probably a factor. Other possible causes may include hormones such as progesterone and estradiol. During the third trimester these hormones increases and fall right after birth.

Dietary and environmental factors such as sensitivity to certain types of foods or iron deficiency may also be risks. Stress, depression, anxiety, and lack of sleep are common during pregnancy which may also take a toll and trigger RLS. Consequently, you need to take care of yourself and try to get plenty of rest.

Things you can about RLS during pregnancy:

  • Get some sleep

Although RLS is prominent for keeping pregnant women up at night, fatigue will worsen your symptoms. However, you may not want to force yourself to stay in bed during an RLS episode. Instead, you get up slowly and walk down for a few minutes. This gentle movement helps ease the discomfort.

  • Distract yourself

If your feet start jumping on their own, do anything to distract yourself from the annoying symptoms of RLS. You may immerse yourself in your favorite movie or series, grab a crossword puzzle, or start knitting.

  • Keep a food journal

Take note of what you’ve eaten. Some women find that certain foods can trigger RLS especially if eaten late in the day. You may also be able to figure out what foods that make your symptoms worse.

  • Get tested

You may ask your doctor about being tested for iron deficiency anemia which could be linked to RLS. For the time being, it never hurts to fill up on iron-rich and heart-healthy foods.

  • Heat it up

An ice pack, heating pad, or warm bath can bring relief to the symptoms.

How to prevent RLS during pregnancy?

Unfortunately, this may be one of those symptoms you’ll have to learn to live with until your baby is born. Nevertheless don’t worry, it’s temporary.

Symptoms must go away within 4 weeks of delivery, though one study found that 97% of women with RLS found complete relief a few days after giving birth.

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