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How Can I Relieve My Pregnancy Leg Cramps?

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
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Why Do Painful Leg Cramps Sometimes Happen During Pregnancy?

Many pregnant women get lower leg cramps, often in the middle of the night in their second and third trimesters.

Experts aren't sure what causes "charley horses" (the nonclinical name for painful cramps in calf muscles). While they can be extremely painful, charley horses are — luckily! — usually brief.

What Can Help Ease Leg Cramps?

If you're pregnant and getting leg cramps, try these tips:

  • Do calf stretches before going to bed to prevent the cramping. But don't point your toes while stretching.
  • Straighten your leg and flex your foot when you get a cramp. A gentle massage of the calf may help relax the muscle.
  • Make sure to drink lots of liquids during the day.
  • If your doctor says it's OK, get regular exercise, which can help reduce cramps.

Talk to your doctor to see if extra calcium or magnesium could help you. Always check with the doctor before taking any supplements during your pregnancy.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor right away if the leg pain:

  • doesn't ease
  • is severe
  • happens along with swelling, warmth, or redness in the leg or trouble walking
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: January 2021