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Pregnancy Problems

Restless Legs Syndrome During Pregnancy

Can’t sleep because you can’t stand to lie still? We’ve got the details on why you’ve got restless legs during pregnancy and how to deal with it.

What is restless legs syndrome during pregnancy?

Something about pregnancy can trigger restless legs syndrome (RLS), a nagging urge to move your legs that can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep and make you really uncomfortable.

What are the signs of RLS during pregnancy?

Discomfort or pain in your legs. It might feel as if your skin is crawling! Usually, it gets worse when you’re not moving your legs or in the evening and night. You might also constantly move in your sleep or have trouble sleeping.

Are there any tests for RLS during pregnancy?

No. RLS is diagnosed based on symptoms and a physical exam. Your doc may test your iron levels, though, since RLS is sometimes a sign of low iron or anemia.

How common is RLS during pregnancy?

Pretty common — about one in four pregnant women get it.

How did I get RLS during pregnancy?

There are a few potential causes of RLS. You could have low levels of iron or folate, or your changing hormones could be to blame. Your legs might feel more sensitive because any swelling you might have is compressing your nerves.

How will my RLS affect my baby?

It shouldn’t. But some drugs used to treat RLS could harm baby, so talk with your doctor before taking any RLS medications (see next page for treatments, tips, prevention and resources for RLS).

See next page for treatments, prevention, resources and tips from other moms-to-be.

What’s the best way to treat RLS during pregnancy?

Do everything you can to prep your body for a good night’s sleep: Avoid caffeine, don’t smoke or drink alcohol, and get regular exercise during the day. Take short warm baths, stretch often and try massage — and when you’re sitting still, keep yourself busy and alert (knit, play a game, have a good conversation).

If you’re having trouble sleeping, don’t fight the urge to move. Get up out of bed and do something else for a little while.

What can I do to prevent RLS during pregnancy?

Make sure you’re taking your prenatal vitamin, eating healthy foods, avoiding alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, and getting plenty of exercise.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have RLS?

“I've been there! I only have a couple of suggestions: Try running hot water at the end of your shower if you shower just before going to bed. Or try rubbing your legs (like when you put lotion on). I find that if I counter the overstimulation with slower stimulation, it will calm down.”

“I'm pretty sure I have undiagnosed restless legs syndrome! I get like this almost every night before bed. I have my husband tickle (like a slow tickle) or rub my legs for me. It really helps a lot. I also get it when I sit for longer periods of time, but the only thing that helps is to walk around.”

“What's helped the most for me is soaking my legs and feet in hot water just before bed. And actually, for the past two days I was out of town and had to do a lot of walking — I wound up soaking my legs and feet two to three times a day, and guess what? No restless legs for the past two nights! I'm back at home now and am going to try to keep up the same routine and see if it works.”

Are there any other resources for RLS?

Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Plus, more from The Bump:

Leg Pain During Pregnancy

Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

Trouble Sleeping During Pregnancy

By The Bump Editors