First Trimester

Q&A: Leg Cramps During Pregnancy?

Why do I get leg cramps and how can I get rid of them?

You're not alone — leg cramps (otherwise known as charley horses) are actually quite common during pregnancy and may signal one or two things: a lack of nutrients or dehydration. When your body doesn't have enough water or sodium, your muscles can contract; this is what you feel as a cramp. To prevent cramps caused by dehydration, be sure you're drinking between eight and 12 glasses of water a day. If water's not quite your thing, you can include milk, juice (avoid juice packed with sugar), sparkling water and decaf tea and coffee in the mix, too.

The other problem may be your diet. Drops in potassium, calcium or magnesium can all lead to muscle spasms. Now that you're pregnant, you should have 4,700 milligrams of potassium, 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams of calcium and 350 to 360 milligrams of magnesium per day.

Leg cramps tend to be more common (and painful!) in the third trimester. So if you haven't felt this yet, you may still — just think of all that extra weight your legs are going to have to carry soon! In addition to eating and drinking right, there are some things you can do to limit those sharp pains in your calves. Stretching will keep your muscles more elastic and less likely to contract. Walking around and getting that blood flowing might help, too.

By David E. Zepeda, MD, OB/GYN at The Women's Specialists of Houston affiliated with Texas Children's Hospital Pavilion for Women and clinical associate professor, Baylor College of Medicine