Birthzang’s guide to relieving restless legs in pregnancy
If you have never experienced it, it is hard to describe and doesn’t sound that bad, but it can drive you up the wall and have a real impact on your sleep.
It is a real condition known as Restless Legs Syndrome and can affect your arms as well in some cases.
What do restless legs in pregnancy feel like?
It feels as if you have an itch or some kind of sensation that means you need to move your legs. It is an urge, a need, a bit like a twitch but it doesn’t happen spontaneously: you have to consciously move to relieve it.
Restless legs in pregnancy can happen once or twice, or go on for hours and can be incredibly frustrating.
What can you do to relieve restless legs in pregnancy?
There does seem to be some consensus on how to treat restless legs in pregnancy, although there is no clear “cure” so you have to try and see what works for you.
1. Vitamin & mineral deficiencies
There is much agreement that vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause this irritating condition. In particular Magnesium, but also Iron and Vitamin B12 are thought to play a part.
To increase your magnesium and iron levels cut out caffeine, sugar, alcohol either completely or certainly in the evenings (if you get RLS at night). These foods prevent your body from absorbing the minerals properly and this may contribute to restless legs in pregnancy.
Also, you can increase your magnesium and iron levels by eating plenty of food rich in them. Here are links to foods high in Magnesium, Iron and Vitamin B12. There is always the option of food supplements, although a good idea to take advice from a nutritionist or GP to ensure you are taking the right levels and that whatever you are consuming is OK for pregnancy.
You can also have Epson Salt Baths that can help your body’s magnesium levels increase, and use magnesium oil for massage (see number 2).
2. Massage and manipulation
A great way to relieve restless legs in pregnancy, at the time it is happening, is to massage (or better still, get your partner to massage) your legs, hips and buttocks. In fact, massage of the glutes (buttocks) and lower back can also help relieve tension that can contribute to restless legs in pregnancy.
Massage with magnesium oil can also help achieve number 1, and I’ve heard geranium oil is good as well, although not sure why! I would have thought any relaxing oil would work just as well.
Other remedies include pushing your feet against a cold wall, or my own personal favourite – jam your feet and legs in between something that applies pressure. I used to jam my feet in between the mattress and the side of the bed, or under my husband’s body!
There is also some success with really stretching your muscles for a good 10 mins before bed, with some vigorous massage to really stimulate them and work out any stress.
3. Keep well hydrated
Keeping well hydrated is also important, and a good idea to drink mineral water rather than tap to ensure you are getting all the good stuff. Beware of drinking too much caffeine, soda water and fizzy drinks as too much can give you leg cramps at night instead, or as well!
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4. Go to bed on time
My restless legs would start at 10pm on the DOT. If I went to bed at 9.55pm I’d be fine, but at exactly 10pm my foot would start twitching and escalate to the whole leg and that would be it for the next couple of hours.
Some say keep cool at night, some say keep your feet warm so I guess this is down to trial and error but natural fibre bedding, ie, feather duvet, will help you to regulate your body temperature.
5. Chiropractic or osteopathy
Restless legs in pregnancy could be an indication of lower back or pelvic stiffness and so seeing a chiropractor or osteopath who specialises in pregnancy could well help to ensure this isn’t a contributing factor.
All in all, this isn’t a fully-understood condition but thankfully for most people, it goes after pregnancy. Not helpful to know when you are lying awake in bed at night but apart from doing your head in, at least it is not causing you any harm.