Getting a good night's sleep during late pregnancy can seem almost impossible. You may be experiencing a number of discomforts such as insomnia, cramps, and the constant quest to get comfortable.
On top of it all, just as you're falling asleep you may feel as though someone has plugged your legs into an electrical socket. That itching, tingling feeling in your legs is called restless leg syndrome (RLS) and it's surprisingly common amongst pregnant women.
It is reported that over 15% of women experience RLS during pregnancy, typically during their third trimester. So, if you are experiencing these symptoms, rest assured that you're not alone.
Symptoms of RLS in Pregnant Women
Symptoms of RLS are most likely to appear during the third trimester when your body is under the most stress.
Tingling Relieved by Motion
If you are dealing with RLS then movement will immediately relieve tingling symptoms. But they will be back after a few minutes when you sit still or try to go back to sleep.
Stillness for Long Periods
You may also experience these tingling symptoms during long periods of stillness, like while watching a movie or in a long car ride. If holding still causes tingling and moving around relieves it, you have restless leg syndrome.
Causes of RLS in Pregnant Women
Research on restless leg syndrome points to mineral deficiency as the most likely cause. It may be related to a lack of sufficient magnesium, iron, folate, ferritin and vitamin D.
Because pregnant women often experience vitamin and mineral deficiency (you're providing nutrients for two), mineral imbalance is quit common. Interestingly, pregnant women respond better to different supplements, depending on the specific minerals you may be short on.
RLS during pregnancy may also be related to your hormone levels, as it happens when your hormones are at their peak and often recedes shortly after birth.
RLS can also be triggered or made worse by what you eat during the day. Even a little bit of caffeine has been found to make RLS much more intense at bedtime. Some women find that high-carb snacks before bed can trigger an RLS episode.
Holding still for long periods of time or lying down before bed will also increase your risk of symptoms at that time.
Treating RLS During Pregnancy
RLS during pregnancy can be quite uncomfortable, but there are several ways to combat the symptoms.
Start by removing your RLS triggers. Ironically, getting a good night's sleep can help put those dancing legs to bed in the future.
So do your best to get to bed on time. Don't lie in bed or hold still for hours before bed. Instead, try to walk around or shower and only get into bed when you're ready to go straight to sleep. Some women have found that keeping a food journal and avoiding triggering foods can help reduce the symptoms.
Balance Your Minerals
To treat your RLS for all-night rest, you'll need to go straight to the source.
Try to balance your vitamins and minerals. Some women have found that iron, folate, or ferritin supplements help. Others found that eating carefully before bed and consuming vitamin D reinforced foods can help.
Some women find that magnesium lotion, supplements, or Epsom salt baths eases the symptoms and finally allow a full night's sleep.
It depends entirely on which minerals are imbalanced in your body. Try a few days of each to see what helps your restless leg symptoms the most.
What to Do While Waiting Out RLS
The most maddening thing about restless leg syndrome is the need to keep moving or massaging your legs. Many women wait out the symptoms but lose sleep fighting with RLS during pregnancy.
Even if you find the right treatment to ease the nightly tingling, you may still find yourself awake nights either during the search or during particularly tingly episodes.
When this happens, the best thing you can do is to distract yourself.
Do a crossword puzzle, or stream some of your favorite media. Read an interesting book or try Tai Chi. Taking a warm bath can help you keep continue constant low-effort motion.
If you decide to be up and walking, try making your bedroom even more welcoming to dive between the sheets when your legs settle down. Changing the sheets, turning down the thermostat, and drinking some sleepy herbal tea can also act as effective coping mechanisms.
When Will the Restless Leg Syndrome Stop?
For some women who experience RLS during pregnancy, the symptoms usually fade within a few days after childbirth. For others, it could take up to four weeks fo RLS symptoms to subside.
As your vitamins and minerals balance out and your body returns to normality after pregnancy, the symptoms will disappear.
If the symptoms last more than a month after childbirth, you may want to consult with a physician about possible long-term mineral imbalances or sleep disturbances.