How to Prevent Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

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Staying active may help prevent leg cramps.
Staying active may help prevent leg cramps. (Image: phototake/iStock/Getty Images)

Leg cramps are one of the many uncomfortable symptoms you may experience during pregnancy. It's not clear what causes them, but possible explanations include the extra weight of pregnancy or the pressure on the blood vessels from an expanding uterus. While leg cramps are just part of the pregnancy landscape, there are a few things you can do to prevent them. Always consult your doctor before making changes to your diet during pregnancy.

Magnesium and Potassium in Your Diet

The minerals magnesium and potassium are both important for healthy muscle function, and upping your blood levels of these could help prevent or lessen the severity and frequency of leg cramps. A study published in Maternal & Child Nutrition in April 2015 found that pregnant women who supplemented with magnesium experienced less frequent and less intense leg cramps compared to a placebo group. Before you go reaching for supplements, however, try increasing your dietary intake by eating magnesium-rich foods including dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, mackerel, beans and lentils and whole grains. Potassium is found in fruits and vegetables, red meat and chicken, fish, milk and yogurt, nuts and soy products.

Healthy and Hydrated

Staying hydrated may also help prevent leg cramps. Take a look at the color of your urine; if it's dark yellow, you're likely dehydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat more water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes and watermelon. According to registered dietitian Julie Redfern on the BabyCenter website, pregnant women should aim for eight 8-ounces glasses of fluids each day.

Other Steps to Take

Exercising regularly can help keep cramps at bay. Ask your doctor to suggest an activity level and exercise regimen that's right for you. Stretching your calf muscles may also help, especially before bedtime when cramps tend to be worse. You should also choose supportive, comfortable footwear to relieve some of the pressure on your feet.

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