Pregnancy is without a doubt one of the most trying periods in a woman’s life, least of all because it is typically accompanied by health issues such as the restless legs syndrome (RLS). It is estimated that 25% of women suffer from this problem when they are pregnant, which means it is quite common. Some studies even put this figure at 33 percent. Unfortunately, restless leg syndrome, which is the urge to keep moving your leg, also brings about sleep problems. The problem even appears in women who have never experienced RLS before. Fortunately, after your baby is born, the problem usually goes away completely.
What Is It Like?
You will know you have RLS when you feel like your skin is crawling, itchy, or burning. This feeling usually subsides as soon as you move your leg. Obviously, if you were sleeping, you will have woken up by then, and as soon as you fall asleep again, the urge increases again until you have to wake up once more, resulting in a very long and uncomfortable night. RLS has been known to start anywhere from the second trimester and peak during the third trimester.
Unfortunately, experts have yet to discover the cause of this menacing problem among pregnant women. However, the cause can range from food, hormones, to nerve issues. In particular, inadequate levels of iron and folate in your diet can bring this problem.
When pregnant, you are also likely to have a swelling that puts pressure on your nerves, making your leg more sensitive. Stress and sensitivity to certain food types has also been associated RLS during pregnancy.
Some experts even claim that this health issue is linked to genetics, but evidence in support of this claim is quite spotty. Even causes such as hormones are mostly theoretical, and further studies are being conducted to reveal the cause of this syndrome in such high rates among pregnant women, only to disappear after birth.
What You Can Do ?
If the restless legs syndrome is severe enough to deny you a good night’s sleep, then it definitely needs immediate intervention. Insomnia can do a lot of damage to your physical and psychological health and even put your pregnancy in jeopardy. Unfortunately, since doctors are yet to pin down the real cause of this syndrome, there is no single surefire way to deal with it. But, if you are having problems with this health issue, you can try the following techniques, they have helped other moms-to-be deal with the problem.
- Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule whereby you establish specific sleeping and waking hours.
- Additionally, before sleeping, it might help to avoid lying down for too long, as this may agitate RLS and make it interfere with your sleep.
- Stimulants such as coffee, soda, tea have been shown to make RLS much worse; so, these should be avoided.
- Doing stretching workouts can also help. Fortunately, these workouts are some of the few safe exercises pregnant women can do. Obviously, they should focus on the legs and the hips.
- You can take supplements such as iron, folate, magnesium, and vitamin B12. But you should consult your doctor first to avoid interfering with your prenatal vitamin levels.
- Leg massages and sleeping with a pillow between your legs might also alleviate the RLS problem.
- Wearing compression socks has also been associated with reduced RLS.
- Regular exercise can also help with restless leg problem, but this should happen before bedtime to allow enough time to recuperate before getting to bed. Doing a bit of walking has been known to get the rid of the problem entirely, but you have to do it everyday to enjoy consistent results.
- Keeping a food journal can also help. Some women have found that after eating certain foods, the RLS flares up. So, you may find out that a particular food is making your problem worse if you have a record of what you eat before problem reemerges.
What Not To Do
RLS can affect everyone – women, men, and children. Therefore, there are medications out there meant to treat the problem, and yet should be avoided if you are dealing with RLS while pregnant to avoid harming your baby.
Some medications meant to treat other health issues have also been associated with more severe cases of RLS. These include drugs meant to treat colds and allergies. In such cases, alternatives can be sought with the help of your doctor.
Does It Harm The Baby?
In general, RLS is not associated with any problems for the baby. Nevertheless, it has been known to complicate births and increase the need to undergo a C-Section to avoid prolonged labors.
You do not need to have a history of restless legs syndrome to experience the problem during your pregnancy – a third of women experience the problem. Although scientific research is not conclusive on what causes the problem, it has been attributed to hormonal changes and nutrient deficiency among other things. More importantly, restless leg syndrome can be alleviated through measures like exercises and better nutrition.