So what causes them? There doesn't seem to be one conclusive answer. Theories include: fatigue from carrying pregnancy weight, compression of the blood vessels in the legs, and possibly diet — an excess of phosphorus and a shortage of calcium or magnesium. While getting off your feet at night seems like it would help, this is often when fluid retention and fatigue are at their worst, making the cramps that much more likely to strike.
If a cramp strikes straighten your leg and gently flex your ankle and toes back toward your shins several times. If this doesn't help try placing the sole of your foot on a cold surface. (tiled floor or a cold wall) If you can, get your partner to massage calf.
What you can do to help prevent them:
- Light stretches before bed. Stand an arm length away from the wall with your palms against the wall and your feet flat on the floor. Lean forward, supported by your arms, keep your feet flat. Hold for about 10 seconds. Repeat this 3 times.
- Try to put your feet up as often as possible through out the day, even if its just for a few minutes. It'll rest your legs and help prevent fluid build up.
- Drink lots of water! Aim for 8 glasses a day.
- Eat a well balanced diet that includes lots of calcium (yogurt, oranges, leafy greens, almonds) and magnesium avo's, bananas, leafy greens, nuts) and remember to take your prenatal vitamin.
- Regular prenatal massage can help by keeping the muscles relaxed and preventing fluid build up. (One of the many benefits that help make your pregnancy more comfortable!)