Cramps in pregnancy

Cramps in pregnancy

A rather classic symptom, often linked to mineral deficiencies or slowing of circulation, to be counteracted in this way.

A sudden spasm, an acute and localized pain: this is how a cramp manifests itself, a usually harmless but very annoying disorder, which can occur frequently during pregnancy.

Cramps generally affect the lower limbs, especially calves, thighs, feet. The causes are different, but the “usual suspects” are electrolyte imbalances and slowed circulation. Let’s take a closer look at what causes this disorder and how it can be prevented and treated.

All the fault of the (few) mineral salts

During pregnancy, it is quite easy to find yourself deficient in some mineral salts. This type of electrolyte imbalance mainly concerns potassium, a mineral which among its important functions has that of supporting muscle contraction.

Another macro element that may be deficient in pregnancy is magnesium, responsible among other things for regulating blood pressure and supporting muscle activity.

More rarely, iron, phosphorus and calcium are not present at optimal levels, but they have a less direct link with cramps.

Weight and circulation

Cramps are not always caused by imbalances in one or more minerals. Poor blood circulation can sometimes be responsible: in pregnancy, high progesterone levels cause circulatory slowdown, and this in turn can have a local effect that manifests itself in cramps.

Weight gain also impacts local circulation, especially that of the lower limbs, thus placing a burden on the legs, ankles and feet and, consequently, slowing down circulation.

Help at the table

If your cramping problem is caused by low potassium levels, a closer look at your diet may be enough to solve or at least alleviate the problem. The classic food associated with potassium is the banana, but apricots are also rich in it, both fresh and dried (in the second case, for those who have problems with sugar, pay attention to the glycemic index).

Other excellent sources of potassium are green leafy vegetables, to be eaten raw or steamed so that the salts are not lost during cooking, but also legumes and dried fruit in general.

Magnesium, on the other hand, is found in bran, dried fruit (especially almonds, pistachios and cashews) and, excellent news, in dark chocolate.

What to do at the moment

If the right diet and any supplements can help prevent the onset of the disorder, when a cramp occurs, the best thing is to try to relax the muscle, trying to lengthen it and reactivate circulation.

You can try a simple localized massage, with small movements that reactivate the circulation or, if you are in bed or otherwise lying down or sitting, getting up and taking two steps or small movements.

If the acute pain and spasm are concentrated on the calf, in addition to the massage, the heel can be stretched downwards and the toes towards each other, even with the help of a hand under the sole of the foot.

Small prevention steps

In general, the onset of cramps can also be prevented with small daily precautions, such as avoiding standing or sitting for a long time, making gentle but regular movements, so as to avoid circulatory stagnation, walking, drinking plenty of water, not keeping legs crossed, when sitting and lying down, keep the legs slightly raised, avoid tight shoes, boots that block circulation or create too much heat in the calf area, and tight-fitting clothing.

In some cases, when the problem is related to circulation and venous return, graduated compression stockings may be prescribed.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform,

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