Leg Cramps


The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What are leg cramps during pregnancy?

Leg cramps during pregnancy are involuntary tightening and cramping in the legs, typically localizing in the calf muscles and usually at night. Causes may involve salt and electrolyte changes resulting from exercise and pregnancy, kidney dialysis, certain drugs, and disorders affecting peripheral nerves or blood vessels.

How common are leg cramps in pregnancy?

Leg cramps are quite common both in pregnant and non-pregnant women. In general medicine, roughly 50 percent of people arriving for office visits have experienced leg cramps with one month prior to the visit. Leg cramps are increasingly more common with aging, both in the general population and in pregnancy. Pregnancy is one of several risk factors that increases the chances that legs will cramp up.

How are leg cramps diagnosed?

Leg cramps during pregnancy are diagnosed based on your history, in particular, your reporting of the symptoms and the timing of when they occur.

Do leg cramps cause problems during pregnancy?

Leg cramps can be extremely painful and interfere with your sleep. If your sleep is disturbed night after night, you can develop hypertension (high blood pressure), pulmonary hypertension, and certain pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and the need for a cesarean section.

Do leg cramps during pregnancy cause problems for the baby?

If your sleep is disturbed for many nights, this can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and certain pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. All of these conditions can harm the baby. Preeclampsia, for instance, leads to a need to deliver the baby early, whereas gestational diabetes can lead to high birth size and weight.

What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant:

  • The risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat the leg cramps
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding

What should I know about using medication to treat leg cramps during pregnancy?

Studies suggest that magnesium (magnesium bis-glycinate chelate) at a dose of 300 mg per day may decrease the frequency and severity of leg cramps. However, differences in methods between studies and other factors have limited the quality of evidence, so more research is needed to determine if the effect is real. Magnesium at this dosage is not dangerous for the baby.

Who should NOT stop taking medication for leg cramps in pregnancy?

Oral magnesium is not harmful to the baby, and there are few reasons to stop using it if it reduces the frequency and severity of your leg cramps.

What should I know about choosing a medication for leg cramps in pregnancy?

You may find Pregistrys expert reports about the individual medications to treat leg cramps here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed at the end of this report.

What should I know about taking a medication for leg cramps when I am breastfeeding?

Oral magnesium at the daily dosage that is given to a mother for leg cramps is not thought to be dangerous to a nursing infant.

What alternative therapies besides medications exist to treat leg cramps during pregnancy?

There is a possibility that physical techniques, such as stretching the calf muscles, massage, relaxation, heat packs, and extension (dorsiflexion) of the foot, could offer some benefit. Still, studies are needed to verify this possibility.

What can I do for myself and my baby when I have leg cramps during pregnancy?

Bear in mind that the condition is very common and generally manageable.

Resources for leg cramps during pregnancy:

For more information about leg cramps during pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or read the following articles:

Read the whole report
General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.

Read articles about Leg Cramps