Up to ⅓ of expecting mothers struggle with restless leg syndrome during pregnancy. Referred to as RLS for short, this condition can be incredibly frustrating, and sometimes debilitating, during your 9 months.
It becomes an even bigger problem when it starts messing with your sleep, as it so often does.
There are lots of ways women try to combat this ailment, with drugs that boost dopamine, anti-epileptic drugs, and even opioids.
But, do these sound safe during pregnancy? Probably not.
Luckily, there are some natural ways you can combat RLS during pregnancy, many of which are super cost effective with no side effects whatsoever.
We’ll get into those, but first, let’s cover what causes restless leg syndrome in the first place.
What causes restless leg syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome can be characterized as an itchy, burning, creepy-crawly feeling in your legs, giving you no choice but to move them around in hopes of easing the unpleasant sensation. This feeling commonly occurs late at night when you’re trying to sleep, and can keep you tossing and turning until the sun rises.
RLS is usually a lack of dopamine present in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for keeping muscle movements smooth and even, so when you don’t produce enough, your motor patterns start to fall out of whack.
Why does it get worse when you’re pregnant?
During pregnancy, RLS can become worse because you are more deficient in folic acid and iron. Other studies suggest that the increase in estrogen pregnant women experience may play a role.
Whatever the case, one thing is for sure - you need to find a way to beat RLS. It not only makes your pregnancy more miserable through lack of sleep and discomfort, it also makes you extremely irritable.
Plus, some studies even show that women who experience restless leg syndrome during pregnancy are likely to have longer labor, and are more likely to need a C-section.
Does RLS pose any risk to my baby?
You are likely not only concerned about the discomfort of RLS, but also how it affects your growing and developing child.
Luckily, your baby is not at risk of any harm due to RLS. It's just an annoying, painful condition you have to deal with.
When does restless leg syndrome go away during pregnancy?
While restless leg syndrome is an unfortunate, frustrating reality of pregnancy, the good news is it isn’t forever. Even if you can’t find great relief from it during your 9 months, you can rest assured its only temporary.
In most cases, women found complete relief from the condition within a few days of delivery. In some instances, it can take up to four weeks after delivery for the symptoms to subside.
In general though, you can expect RLS to subside shortly after the birth of your little one.
Still, there are ways to alleviate symptoms.
How do you get rid of restless legs?
There are lots of ways you can deal with this, but during pregnancy, your options are a bit more limited, as you have to be really careful about what you put in your body. In general, here are some of the ways people battle RLS with drugs.
Drugs to boost dopamine
Some common drugs used in this instance are pramipexole (Mirapex), rotigotine (Neupro), and ropinirole (Requip).
Since lack of dopamine is generally responsible for RLS, this seems like a no brainer. But, there is a serious problem with taking these.
You build up a dependance, and your body stops producing its own dopamine. This can lead to even bigger issues down the road, especially as it pertains to mental health.
Another school of thought is that if you can control spasms, twitches, and seizures, RLS will cease. Because of this, many doctors recommend you try anti-epileptic drugs, such as Gabapentin and Klonopin/ Clonazepam.
But, all this does is cover up the symptoms, not address the actual cause of restless leg syndrome. And, these drugs are not recommended during pregnancy.
Opioids such as codeine, oxycodone, vicodin, and more are another class of drug that some take to try and beat restless leg syndrome. But, just like with dopamine drugs, you don’t really want to ever get started on these. They can be habit forming, and only offer temporary relief. You are likely aware of the opioid epidemic currently facing America, and don’t want to become a part of it.
Many of these drugs are Class C, meaning animal studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans.
Some of these Class D, which is even worse, suggesting positive evidence of human fetal risk (they can harm your baby).
None of these drugs have been tested for safety during pregnancy, and are generally not recommended by obgyns. Thankfully, there are effective natural treatments for pregnancy induced RLS!
Natural ways to combat RLS during pregnancy
There are ways to soothe restless legs without any drugs. You can make slight lifestyle changes, such as cutting back on caffeine, exercising daily, and doing whatever you can to regain a normal sleep schedule.
But, I've also tried every non-drug solution under the sun and found these 5 natural treatments to be very effective.
Potassium is one of the best ways to relieve cramps and muscle spasms, which is why so many athletes are seen eating bananas before and during events. And, science confirms this.
One study published in the Pharmacy and Pharmacology International Journal concluded that Potassium Citrate was extremely effective in treating restless leg syndrome. So, if you don’t get enough potassium in your prenatal vitamins or daily diet, start stocking up on bananas!
Checking your iron levels should be step one in terms of beating RLS during pregnancy. There is a good chance you’ll need an iron supplement, as prescribed by your doctor.
One way to further improve this treatment option is to wash down your iron supplement with a cup of OJ! Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron better, so you can digest it and use it in the most efficient manner possible.
This one sounds a bit far fetched, but worst case, you are able to spice up your sex life in a period of time where you and your partner would otherwise might not be too intimate.
According to a study in the medical journal Sleep Medicine, masurbation and sexual intercourse early in the evening may both ease restless legs later in the evening.
When you think about what sex does, this makes sense. You’ll be in a state of complete relaxation afterwards.
Another thing you can try to ease restless leg syndrome during pregnancy is using compressions socks or bandages. This one may be less effective than others, and might not be feasible if the socks themselves interfere with your sleep.
Nevertheless, the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that compression socks can act as a counter stimuli for sensory symptoms. In other words, they will slow down and eliminate the discomfort in your legs.
Get More Sleep
Getting more sleep during pregnancy isn’t always easy, but it is important that you are getting a minimum of 8 hours. Letting fatigue build up will only make RLS worse.
This may require you to change your sleeping schedule a bit, especially if your RLS keeps you up at night.
Some pregnant women report going to bed later at night (after midnight) and waking around 9 a.m. is the sweet spot for them. You can avoid the cyclical changes in dopamine and iron, both which contribute to restless leg syndrome, by doing this.
This may not be an option if your are continuing to work during your pregnancy, but if you are on your own schedule, give it a try.
Exercise & move your legs
While it may not eliminate your RLS altogether, studies show that women who exercise during pregnancy experience much lower levels of pain and discomfort from RLS than those who do not.
Exercising gets blood flowing to your legs, and releases endorphins which can counteract RLS. But, you have to be careful about how you exercise.
If you aggravate your muscles too much, your restless leg syndrome will only worsen. So stick to low impact exercises. For example, just getting a long daily walk is all you need. Some other great options arte aerobics, stretching, yoga, etc.
Keep a journal to find RLS triggers
When you first start dealing with RLS, you should keep a journal of everything you did that day. Over time, you’ll build up a database where you can find commonalities that may have contributed to your restless legs.
For example, mark down any foods you ate that could be contributing - such as carbs eaten late in the day.
On the flip side, you can jot down foods that may be helping hinder your RLS symptoms and prevent the condition from flaring up.
Acupuncture looks scary at first sight if you’ve never actually experienced it before. But, it can be incredibly therapeutic and promote healing and relief.
Acupuncture stimulates your muscles, along with parts of your brain related to RLS. It improves blood flow, which is one of the key aspects of any RLS treatment method.
Loosen up with a massage
Massage, specifically a lower body massage, is one of the best natural remedies for restless leg syndrome. In Sweden, patients were massaged twice a week for 3 weeks, and saw relief from RLS symptoms for at least 2 weeks following the treatment.
Interestingly enough, some women find the greatest relief from foot massages. There are all kinds of connections in our feet to the rest of our body, so it makes sense to assume that stimulating trigger points here can improve blood flow to our legs and decrease RLS symptoms.
Just like massage, exercise, and some of the other methods on this list, using heat therapy can provide great natural relief for RLS during pregnancy.
It's all about increasing blood flow to the legs, whether it be from a heating pad or a warm bath. For bonus points, try taking a hot epsom salt bath with added magnesium!
Perhaps the best way to eliminate restless leg syndrome while pregnant is with a magnesium supplement.
New research is starting to suggest that a leading cause of RLS is actually due to magnesium deficiency, something pregnant women are notorious for developing.
By increasing your magnesium intake, you can calm your muscles, and prevent them from going into spasm, which leads to RLS. One study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that magnesium was not only effective in treating RLS, it helped those specifically suffering with insomnia from RLS.
Don’t reach for the pills or powders, however. Use a topical magnesium treatment for RLS, as you can massage it into your legs and relax your leg muscles in a more direct manner. Plus, magnesium absorbs better through our skin.
Avoid the adverse symptoms of restless leg syndrome, and sleep better than ever.
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It will prevent leg cramps and restless leg syndrome, allowing you to finally experience complete relief and relaxation.
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Thousands of happy moms are still using this product even after giving birth, as the benefits don’t stop.
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