Restless Legs Syndrome During Pregnancy
Restless legs in pregnancy is a problem that will affect nearly a third of all pregnant women. People with restless legs describe the sensations as itching and burning. It can feel like something is crawling along your leg and the only way to get relief is to move your legs. These feelings can set it at any time but they are more common at night and may be severe enough to wake a person up and disrupt sleep.
What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome in Pregnancy?
One issue with restless legs syndrome, including restless legs syndrome during pregnancy, is that doctors aren’t sure of what causes it. There are many potential risk factors and potential causes, including problems with dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is the brain chemical that relaxes muscles and keeps muscle movement smooth.
Pregnancy-related RLS could also be caused by a lack of iron and folic acid. There is evidence to suggest that estrogen levels can also cause RLS, or at least make symptoms worse.
Having to constantly move and being woken up by restless legs makes it difficult to function properly during the day. For pregnant women, it can make labor more intense or mean they need to have a C-section to safely deliver the baby.
How to Treat RLS In Pregnancy
You should talk to your doctor if the symptoms get so bad that you aren’t sleeping properly. Treating RLS can be difficult for pregnant women because any treatment option must keep the baby in mind.
Most of the drugs used to treat restless legs syndrome, including Requip and Mirapex, haven’t been properly studied in pregnant women. There isn’t enough data to determine if taking these drugs while pregnant can compromise the health of the developing fetus.
Your doctor should check your iron levels before giving you any kind of restless legs medication. You can take iron supplements for some relief if you have an iron deficiency. This may prove to be enough to relieve the symptoms.
If treating iron deficiency doesn’t treat the RLS, then doctors may choose to prescribe a form of opioid medication. Given that opioids can cause newborns to have withdrawal symptoms, they are only given to pregnant women if necessary and for short periods of time.
Lifestyle Changes for RLS
Managing restless legs in pregnancy could be as simple as making a few changes to your daily routine. The lifestyle changes you can make for RLS are also good for pregnancy as a whole and help to deliver a happy and healthy baby.
- Adjust Sleeping Position
You’ll have an easier time sleeping through the night if you have a comfortable sleeping position. It’s impossible for a pregnant woman to sleep on her stomach, but sleeping on your back can add a lot of extra pressure to your back and veins.
Improve circulation by sleeping on your left side. Put down a pillow behind your back to stop you from rolling over during the night. Having a pillow there will also add some extra comfort for your back. Get even more comfort by putting a pillow between your knees.
- Have Good Sleep Hygiene
Healthy sleeping habits can help you to get all the restful sleep you need. The first step is to have a solid sleeping schedule. Aim to get to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
It helps to do something relaxing before going to bed. Reading, meditating, and listening to soothing music are good ideas. The earlier you can turn off electronic devices the better as the blue light they put out disrupts sleep.
It’s worth the time to put together a comfortable and relaxing sleep environment. The bedroom should be kept cool, clean, and dark. Don’t forget to regularly change out your pillowcase, bed sheet, and nightclothes.
- Regular Exercise
Exercise is a great way to get relief from RLS. Find time in the morning to do some light to moderate exercise like taking a walk. The main thing is that you move around more and stretch. If your legs become a bother then ask someone to give you a massage or soak them in warm water to get relief. Hot and cold treatments can also help to get relief.
- Magnesium Supplements
Nutrient deficiencies are a major factor with restless legs. You could be prescribed supplements and dietary changes to ensure you get enough of the right nutrients.
Your doctor could recommend supplementing magnesium for RLS relief. You should consider eating more foods with magnesium in, such as legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, and fortified cereals.
It’s recommended that pregnant teenagers between 14 and 18 require 400mg of magnesium per day. Older women between the ages of 19 and 30 require 350mg of magnesium per day. Pregnant women over 30 need 360mg of magnesium per day.
Be sure to discuss magnesium supplements with your doctor before taking them. Magnesium is known to interact with some medication and it can be harmful to take too much.
- Iron Supplements
Your doctor might recommend that you take some iron supplements and eat more iron-rich foods. Fish, red meat, and poultry are great natural sources of iron. Beans, vegetables, and fortified cereals are also good for iron. Pregnant women should get 27mg of iron per day, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.
Does Restless Legs in Pregnancy Go Away?
The good news is that – like most pregnancy-related conditions – restless legs in pregnancy tends to resolve itself after the baby is born. Symptoms can disappear within a few days of birth. That’s good to know as new moms will have a lot on their plate once the baby is born. You’ll probably have other things keeping you awake at night, but a baby is so much more fulfilling to deal with than restless legs.