Leg Pain During Pregnancy And How To Deal With It
Leg pain is closely associated with pregnancy and will make your life miserable during the whole period. Leg pain starts to increase during first trimester in pregnancy due to hormonal changes after fertilization. Whereas, when hormones settle down after the third month, the pain in second trimester is likely to be lowered. In the last three months, every kind of change occurs in the body and you will be restless. So naturally, in third trimester, leg pain is also elevated.
There are different reasons reported for this pain. Therefore, methods of treatment also differ. You have to look closely for the symptoms and then treat your legs accordingly. If you feel that the problem is getting worse, immediately contact the doctor. Here are a few common reasons for leg pain and its simple treatment.
Causes of Leg Pain:
Various reasons for leg pain are seen in different pregnant women. Looking for signs and symptoms, you can predict your problem. Some of these causes are listed below:
Mostly, obese women are often vulnerable to leg pain during pregnancy. The reason behind this factor is that they are overweight and when the additional weight of the baby is included, their legs become painful under so much pressure. In this way, they become unable even to stand. Thus, you must keep your weight under control before getting pregnant or it will prove to be an unimaginable distress to you.
Another reason for fatigue is less sleep, extra work and unbalanced diet. If you are a working woman, you will suffer from the pain due to constant labour which will also disturb and alter your sleeping habits leading to restlessness. Moreover, diet rich in fats and lacking in carbohydrates or essential nutrients like Calcium, Vitamins etc may lead to muscle fatigue making them taught and painful.
2- Low Blood Circulation:
Growing uterus puts pressure on the large vein on right side of the body (inferior vena cava) which is responsible to transport blood from legs to the heart. Due to extra pressure, vein gets obstructed leading to the low blood circulation and deficiency of oxygen. Oxygen deficit legs, thus, suffer from cramps and pain.
Apart from the lack of oxygen, obstruction of veins also cause nutrition deficiency. Blood volume during pregnancy, increases upto 50%, adding to the burden of veins because they are already transporting blood from legs against gravity. This makes circulation low and legs do not receive the necessary nutrients as a result of which, they become taught and painful.
3- Nutritional Factors:
Sometimes, the leg pain occurs because of unbalanced diet during pregnancy. For instance, lack of Calcium in diet leads to the weakness of your muscles and bones. The normal amount of calcium you eat will be used in the development of bones, teeth and other organs of your baby’s body and your own body will become calcium deficit.
Other than calcium, deficiency of Potassium, Iron, Vitamins (specifically Vitamin B) and Magnesium can also cause leg pain and muscle cramps. Excessive amounts of Phosphorus in blood can also lead to leg pain.
4- Narrow Arteries:
If you are suffering from arteriosclerosis, then, it can be a cause of your pains. There are several reasons for this problem like High blood pressure, Cholesterol, Smoking etc. Narrow arteries can cause obstruction of oxygenated blood while walking, climbing stairs or some other kind of exercise. Legs during exercise will become painful because of lactic acid formation leading to the muscle fatigue.
5- Compression of Spinal Nerve:
Spinal nerve compression is known as “lumbar stenosis”. It is narrowing of spinal canal in the backbone which results to squeeze the nerves and spinal cord inside the canal. These nerves are responsible for the movement of legs and lower back region. Squeezed nerves can make the movements of legs painful.
During the period of pregnancy, lumbar region and legs are vulnerable to any kind of problems that occur in the body. So, if your body went through some previous surgery or suffers from Sciatica, you are more likely to have leg pain during pregnancy. Growing age can also be a cause of this compression.
Some medicines are the cause of leg pain during pregnancy. These medicines may contain some nutrient or chemical affecting the leg movements and may cause pain. Painkillers like naproxen, pregabalin etc are said to affect legs and cause pain.
Other medicines responsible for the pain are, Diuretics (for lowering Blood Pressure) because they deplete the fluids and salts in the body, Osteoporosis Drugs, Iron Sucrose (for treatment of anemia), Drugs for Asthma etc may cause problems. If you are suffering from pain after starting a new medication, call your doctor and ask for help.
Symptoms of Leg Pain:
Leg pain is usually characterized by tenderness in legs, stiff veins and achy feet during pregnancy period. These leg pains usually disappear on their own after third trimester,but if you are still experiencing a persistent pain, immediately contact the doctor. Following are some of the signs that may be serious:
- Redness around the area
- Swelling or tenderness in the region
- Weakness along with the pain
- If the pain is frequent and does not improve with self care
- Pain is not because of exercise
Answer all the questions of the doctor thoroughly and accurately for correct diagnosis and treatment. Otherwise, the pain can also cause severe problems.
Leg pains while pregnant, are common but some of these factors are likely to induce them in your legs. Thus, you have to prevent them.
- Growing age increases the leg pain. Pregnant women of more than thirty years suffer more pain than the younger moms to be.
- Fatigue and dehydration in warm weather also cause leg pain and cramps
- Some diseases like diabetes, thyroid, liver and kidney problems, and nervous disorders cause cramps
How to Get Rid of Leg Pain During Pregnancy?
Mild pain can be easily treated by self care. Once you have known the reason for these pains, you can cure them at home with simple and easy ways. Some of these methods are listed below:
You should prefer eating green vegetables like cabbage, lettuce and fresh fruits. These are rich in nutrients. Foods rich in Vitamins, Calcium, Zinc are also good for health like broccoli, almonds, salmon, whole grains, pumpkin seeds etc. Meat, fish, eggs, milk, beans etc contain high protein level. You should use animal liver 2 to 3 times a week for iron. In this way, you won’t need any iron supplements.
Limit the salt and seafood in your diet because salt causes swelling in legs to increase. Moreover, you should not eat the indigestible food like rice, sweet potatoes, onions, and potatoes because they can cause bloating.
Avoid the Use of Caffeine:
Alcohols and caffeine can cause leg pain in addition to the damage caused to fetus. Caffeine is diuretic in nature and increases the amount of waste fluids in the body. This fills up the space for useful liquids and cause dehydration when all the liquid is drained from body through urination. Dehydration affects blood flow to legs causing pain.
Adjust Your Posture:
Pay attention to how you sit, stand or lie down. If you sit or stand for long time, it causes poor circulation and pain will increase. Mostly, working women suffer from this, because standing or sitting in the same position for a long time puts pressure on legs and feet. The best you have to do is to take a little break from your work, stretch your legs to resume the blood flow.
Do not cross your legs, because they will block the flow of blood and your legs and feet will be numb. Change your position after a few minutes and also, add a chair under the table you sit for support to your legs. Lie on one side (preferably left side) to ensure blood flow in legs. Before sleeping, wash your feet in warm water with salt, and put pillow under your legs. Get enough sleep and relax your body.
Do not wear too tight clothes because they make you feel even worse. Instead, you should wear one size large and breathable clothes preferably of cotton. You can also use medical socks prescribed by doctors which increase mechanical affect, reduce diameter and make valves of veins close together.
Shoes should also be moderate in height (maximum 2 to 3 inches), soft and one size big. This is important because slippery shoes cause inflammation, and tight shoes can affect the bones. Heels cause pelvis to tilt and pain is felt in the lower back region.
Add an evening walk and yoga to your daily routine. They promote the metabolism and improve the blood circulation. You can also do some small exercises of feet and legs for relieving pain:
- Turn your ankle in large circles
- Fold your foot, then, turn each toe clockwise
- Raise one foot high, then lower it while lying on the mattress
Do these exercises in both right and left leg regularly. For best results, try them 2 to 3 times daily for 10 minutes to each foot. Do not try heavy exercises, as they are not convenient for your condition. Also, take your doctor’s advice before trying any type of exercise.
Water puts pressure on the skin from outside and stimulate the lymphatic circulation. It tightens your buttocks and relax the lower back region. Moreover, calf muscles remain active while swimming and blood circulation is enhanced. If possible, go for swimming 2 to 3 times a week for 30 minutes. If not convenient, try taking a warm bath before sleeping or just wash your feet.
Water makes blood circulation better increasing the flow to legs. This reduces swelling and cramps and hence, the pain is relieved. In addition, it improves your digestive system, and also makes urinary system to work well. Thus, drink a lot of water daily. If not possible, you can use lemonade or your favorite juices. A glass of bitter melon in the morning before breakfast until your 6th month can also do a lot of good for you.
Pregnant women are usually shy to go to the toilet again and again. Therefore, they feel it better to refrain from urinating. They do not know what damage does it cause to their body and fetus as well. You should never avoid the urge to urinate.
Storage of urine in bladder is said to increase the swelling. This is because urine contains excess of substances for excretion that are harmful for the body. These substances can cause urinary tract infection, fetal distress or premature birth. These extra elements may also accumulate in the muscles of legs and make them painful.
Limit Weight Gain:
Overweight or obese women suffer from various problems when they get pregnant. When the weight of child adds to their own weight, strain on the legs presses the pelvic veins and blood flow is blocked. Thus, make sure that during three months between and at the end of pregnancy period, average weight gain should be 0.3 to 0.5 kg per week.
To limit your weight, eat healthy foods instead of fatty foods. Consult your doctor or nutritionist to help you make a diet chart. This will give your body full nutrition without the increase of extra weight.
Ask the doctor about essential oils which are safe to use during pregnancy. Then, you can use these oils (like chamomile, lavender or grape seed oil) to massage gently on the affected area for relief. Lavender oil is said to be effective in the first trimester because it causes uterine contractions.
‘Prevention is better than cure’ you have often heard this phrase and it is effective too. You should follow a few precautions in order to avoid these pains. Some suggested preventions are as follows:
- Don’t stand or sit in the same position and cross legged for long periods of time.
- Stretch your calf muscles several times during the day and before going to bed.
- Take a walk daily, either in the evening or morning, if doctors don’t prohibit you.
- Drink a lot of water during the day to keep your body hydrated.
- If your legs hurt due to pressure, wear support hose while working.
- Spin your ankles, and give little jerks to your toes while watching TV, eating dinner or sitting.
- Lie down on the left side as it improves blood circulation to and from legs.
Legs are your best friends through thick and thin so take good care of them and keep them safe and healthy. If they do not work properly, you will find it hard to keep up with the daily routine of your work. So be a healthy mom for the sake of your child and your own self.
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