Leg, Arm & Back Cramps in Pregnancy

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A husband hugging his pregnant wife. (Image: Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Pregnancy can be a wonderful time in a woman’s life. However, being pregnant also means that your body will undergo some dramatic changes. Cramps are one of the many unpleasant physical symptoms commonly associated with pregnancy. A cramp is a painful, spontaneous muscle contraction that can occur in your legs, arms or back. If you are pregnant and find yourself plagued by muscle cramps, your doctor may be able to suggest ways that you can get relief; do not take any preventative action or home remedies without doctor's approval.

Causes

Most women who were a healthy weight before getting pregnant will gain about 25 to 35 pounds during their pregnancy. The strain associated with carrying around this added weight can cause your muscles to cramp. Leg cramps tend to be most common during the second trimester. Leg cramps typically occur as a result of the pressure that your uterus places on the veins that carry blood from your legs, the Mayo Clinic explains. As your pregnancy progresses, it may become increasingly difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position during the night. Tossing and turn and lying in awkward positions all night can also lead to arm, leg and back cramps.

Solutions

Exercise is an effective way to ease pregnancy-related cramps in your arms, legs and back, the Mayo Clinic reports. Light exercises such as walking, stretching and leg flexes are generally safe and effective for most pregnant women. Talk to your doctor first to determine which exercises are safe for both you and your unborn baby. Be careful not to overdo it. Exercising too strenuously can further aggravate your cramps. Another good way to ease painful cramping is to soak in a tub of warm water. You can also try massaging the affected area by hand or with a hand-held massaging device.

Prevention

One way to help prevent pregnancy-related cramps is to wear supportive shoes. Wearing shoes with no support only adds to the strain on your back and legs. Purchasing a pregnancy pillow can help prevent leg cramps associated with sleeping in uncomfortable positions. Pregnancy pillows are large body pillows that come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are specially designed to provide complete support for your back, belly and limbs, helping you to sleep more comfortably a night.

Warning

Although experiencing cramps in your legs, arms and back is a common symptom of pregnancy, in some cases it can also be a sign of a different medical condition. These cramps can also occur if you suffer from diabetes or peripheral artery disease, the Mayo Clinic warns. See your doctor right away if your cramps become severe or if you also experience muscle weakness.

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