It’s the middle of the night, you’ve finally gotten comfortable, you don’t need to get up and go to the bathroom and then it hits. CRAMP! That sharp spasm pain in the calf that can radiate up through the legs and that needs to be stretched now. Starting in the second trimester, around the 19 week mark, cramps are a common occurrence for most pregnant women.
It’s hard to say why they occur, with theories ranging from:
-pregnancy weight and swelling
-compression of main vein returning the blood from the legs
-changes in diet, with the loss of key electrolytes (Magnesium or calcium specifically)
When the cramps occur, the best thing to do is to stretch it out as quickly as possible. Think about pulling your toes up, flexing your foot as hard as you can. But prevention is better than a cure! If you are starting to get cramps, try and follow these tips:
* Stretch. Gentle calf stretches, like you would do in the gym, one foot forward with the knee bent and the other foot back, keeping the leg straight. You can do this as often as you like, generally holding for 30 seconds.
* Calf pumps. My favourite way to do this is off the edge of a step, thinking about alternately dropping and lifting the heels like you are walking on the spot.
* Drink lots of water as dehydration can lead to the imbalances of electrolytes. You can avoid it in the last 1-2hours before the end of the day to hopefully stop needing to get up at night.
* Try and eat a balanced diet, including calcium and magnesium if you can tolerate it. You dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are great sources of these minerals. Otherwise this is a great excuse to eat chocolate, another good source of magnesium!
If the pain in the calf remains constant or if you notice any swelling redness or tenderness contact your GP, obstetrician or midwife as in rare cases it may be a blood clot. If you have questions regarding calves and cramping feel free to ask your friendly Physio’s at Bend + Mend in Sydney’s CBD, we see lots of pregnant ladies both for physiotherapy treatment and in our Pregnancy Pilates Classes.