image001Pain can be common during your last trimester of pregnancy. At this stage your body will be suffering from a great deal of stress due to pregnancy hormones and additional weight. Some common concerns for women in the later stages of pregnancy include vaginal pain, thigh and hip pain, pain radiating down the buttocks, hip pain and back pain. Leg pain during pregnancy is also common. The best way to get through this period of your pregnancy is to be aware of what causes the pain and the steps you can take to relive it.

Possible Causes of Leg Pain During Pregnancy

Your extra weight during pregnancy can lead to back and leg pain. Additionally, your body releases a hormone which will loosen your ligaments in preparation for childbirth. Besides those natural causes, some health conditions can also cause leg pain during pregnancy:

1. Sciatica

According to Sarah Prager, MD who is an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the most common cause for leg pain during pregnancy is sciatica. This is associated with pain down the thigh, hip, and buttocks and is due to the sciatic nerve compressing. This nerve starts in your lower back and runs down your leg until it reaches your feet. During pregnancy, sciatica is usually caused by the uterus pressing on the nerve due to its increased size. This in turn can cause pain, numbness, or tingling. Pregnancy is not the only possible cause of sciatica so you should always talk to your doctor if you think you are experiencing symptoms of it.

2. Nutrient Deficiency and Leg Cramps

In some cases leg pain will simply be due to leg cramps and this is most common during the final trimester of pregnancy. These leg cramps can also be due to a shortage of salts and other nutrients including magnesium or calcium. Your baby will automatically take the quantities of these nutrients she needs which can lead to lower levels circulating in your blood. Despite this cause, experts are still unsure whether taking magnesium or calcium salts or other supplements can help prevent leg pain.

When to See a Doctor

If the muscle pain you are experiencing is constant instead of occasional contact your doctor. Always let your doctor know about leg pain as it may indicate something more serious such as uterine fibroids or deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clot in your leg. Because of this, you should keep a close eye on your symptoms, especially if you just took a long car trip or flight and the leg pain occurs in one leg in particular with it focuses along the back of your calf or knee and accompanied by swelling or redness.

How to Treat Leg Pain During Pregnancy

1. For Sciatic Nerve Pain

The easiest way to treat sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy is to simply lie down on the side opposite from the pain. This can help relieve some of the pressure acting on the nerve. You should additionally avoid lifting heavy objects and try to keep your standing to a minimum. If you do feel pressure while you are standing, try to rest one of your feet on something to elevate it. In some cases, swimming can also ease the discomfort.

You can also use cold or heat to help treat the painful area. In some cases your doctor may recommend taking acetaminophen, but never take medication during pregnancy without consulting your doctor.

2. For Leg Cramps

If you wake up to a cramp, be sure to stretch your muscle immediately. First straighten out your leg by starting with the heel and then gently flex the toes and ankles. Although it can hurt in the beginning, the pain will slowly ease. Another option is to relax your leg cramps by giving your muscles a massage. A final choice is to get out of your bed and take a stroll around your house for a few minutes.

Stretches that Relieve Hip, Low Back and Leg Pain In Pregnancy:

How to Relive Leg Cramps in Pregnancy:

How to Prevent Leg Pain During Pregnancy

Even if you are unsure of the cause of your leg cramps, you can still take steps to help prevent them from occurring.

Preventive Measures


Stretch the Calf Muscles

Sometimes stretching your muscles before going to bed can help prevent leg cramps while pregnant. Stand about arm length away from your wall. Then place your hands in front of you on the wall and place your right foot so it is behind your left. Start to slowly bend the left leg forward while keeping the right knee straight. Keep this stretch for around 30 seconds with your hips forward and back straight. Try not to point your toes and don’t rotate the feet. Afterwards, repeat on the other leg.

Keep Active

Doing regular physical activity can sometimes prevent leg cramps, but always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Take Magnesium Supplement

Some research has shown that magnesium supplements may help reduce your risk of developing leg pain during pregnancy. Always talk to your doctor before starting the supplement. Another option is to eat more foods with magnesium including seeds, nuts, dried fruits, beans, and whole grains.

Stay Hydrated

By keeping the muscles hydrated, you may be able to prevent cramps from occurring. Drink more water if your urine appears dark yellow.

Choose Proper Footwear

When picking shoes, select options while considering utility, support, and comfort. Some women feel better when wearing shoes that have a long counter (this is the firm area that is around the heel).