Cramp­ing your style?

How to tackle night-time cramps dur­ing preg­nancy

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

There’s noth­ing sub­tle when preg­nancy cramps at­tack. “The spasms tend to strike at night and usu­ally af­fect the lower limbs, so when you’re preg­nant, it’s not al­ways easy to leap out of bed and get into a po­si­tion that gives re­lief,” says mid­wife Tina Per­ridge.

Cramps most of­ten be­gin in the sec­ond trimester, at around 18 to 20 weeks, and con­tinue un­til birth. The un­com­fort­able sen­sa­tion as the mus­cle con­tracts is usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with a build-up of lac­tic acid dur­ing ex­er­cise, but no-one knows why they’re so com­mon dur­ing preg­nancy.

“There are all sorts of the­o­ries about causes, but no hard ev­i­dence,” says Tina. One the­ory is that your uterus be­comes heav­ier as your baby grows, which means that your legs are work­ing harder to carry you. An­other pos­si­ble cause is that the uterus ly­ing on the ma­jor vein that re­turns blood to the heart slows that process, lead­ing to heavy, slug­gish limbs that are more prone to cramps.

“The prob­lem seems to be linked to a de­gree to de­hy­dra­tion and a change in min­eral lev­els,” Tina adds. “Your body will pri­ori­tise the de­vel­op­ment of your baby dur­ing the sec­ond and third trimesters, and this can lead to a lack of cal­cium, mag­ne­sium or potas­sium, which could be trig­gers for a cramp.”

Drink­ing plenty of wa­ter is an easy fix, and there are sim­ple steps that you take to top up those es­sen­tial min­er­als, too. “Guard­ing against de­fi­cien­cies through a var­ied diet is the best way,” says Tina. “Bananas are par­tic­u­larly rich in mag­ne­sium and potas­sium, and many preg­nant women find their cramps dis­ap­pear if they eat plenty of them. Leafy green ve­g­ies are an­other good source of mag­ne­sium, while potas­sium is found in pota­toes, sweet pota­toes and milk. In­crease your cal­cium lev­els with plenty of cheese, leafy veg­eta­bles, nuts and fish.”

A lack of ex­er­cise may also con­trib­ute to cramps. Walk­ing can help guard against it, as the gen­tle stretch­ing of your calf mus­cles pre­vents the build-up of lac­tic acid and helps the blood be pumped out of your legs and back to your heart,” says Tina. “Preg­nancy yoga can also help, as stretch­ing im­proves blood flow around the

body. Also try some sim­ple stretches

... a lack of cal­cium, mag­ne­sium or potas­sium ... could be trig­gers for a cramp.

be­fore bed, such as moving your an­kles up and down and from side to side.”

If you’re gripped with cramps, Tina says, “Stand on a flat sur­face, ide­ally a cold floor. With your mus­cles cramp­ing, your foot won’t want to flat­ten down and you might have to push it down with your hand, but the pain will start to re­cede as soon as your sole touches the floor. If your bump is too big for you to man­age this, del­e­gate the job to your part­ner or, if you can’t get out of bed, get them to push against your foot in­stead.”

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