Restless Leg Syndrome
As much as 26% of all pregnant mothers will experience Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) at some point during their pregnancy, according to the Journal of Midwifery. RLS is an irritating, itchy, unpleasant or burning sensation that gives mothers an uncontrollable urge to keep moving their legs around, interfering with their quality sleep. Some mothers have also described it as being throbbing, painful and a pulling sensation. These symptoms usually occur during periods of inactivity, when a mother is sitting, laying down or trying to sleep.
So far, doctors have not found out why RLS occurs, although some have theorised that it could be because of hormonal changes, mineral deficiencies, and dopamine imbalances in the brain, with evidence pointing to the increasing estrogen levels.
As mothers with RLS may have an impossible time trying to get a good night’s rest, RLS can cause mothers to feel fatigued and in constant discomfort, so try these tips to help relieve some of your symptoms:
- Adjust your sleeping position
Firstly, try finding a more comfortable position to rest. During your third trimester, it is best to sleep on your left side for blood circulation, as it is almost impossible to sleep on your front, and sleeping on your back will add too much pressure to your veins and lower back. Consider placing a pillow behind your back for extra support if you tend to roll over.
- Exercise lightly and regularly
Keep your blood circulating by fitting in some moderate exercises whenever you can, such as walking and stretching. Move around often and try not to spend extended time standing or sitting in the same position for hours. However, try not to exercise a few hours before bedtime, because some people may get more energetic to fall asleep then.
- Massage your legs
When your legs are getting restless or irritating, ask someone to help you massage them, or soak them in warm water. You can also apply a cold or warm compress to your leg muscles to alleviate symptoms.
- Get enough iron and magnesium
Sometimes, your RLS could be caused by nutrient deficiencies. If RLS is interfering with your sleep significantly, your doctor may prescribe iron and magnesium supplements or recommend changes to your diet. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, pregnant women should get 350-360 mg of magnesium and 27 mg of iron daily. You can also consume more magnesium-rich foods, such as leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and fortified cereals, as well as iron-rich foods such as fish, poultry and lean red meat.
Fortunately, for expecting mothers who develop RLS, their symptoms will usually go away itself within weeks after delivery. However, a good rest is important for a mother’s health both during and after delivery, so try to make some positive lifestyle changes, and avoid drinking soda, coffee and other caffeinated beverages during pregnancy.
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