Oh my poor husband – he had the “pleasure” of being woken up from a deep sleep to the sound of me yelling “RUB MY LEG!” repeated because of night cramps. Muscle cramps – there is nothing fun about them. Unfortunately they are more common during pregnancy than at other times and often occur during the night. As if you weren’t already waking up enough times each night to change position or go to the bathroom.
However there is hope. There are things you can do to decrease the frequency of muscle cramps. Start making some changes – your legs and your partner will thank you.
The first thing to consider is diet.
Too little water and/or protein in the diet are responsible for many of the discomforts of pregnancy, including high blood pressure, nausea, and leg cramps. A minimum of two litres of water per day (and far more in our dry Saskatchewan climate) is needed for proper hydration in pregnancy. At lease 60 grams, and preferably 75-80 grams of protein per day is recommended.
Many sources recommend extra calcium, potassium and/or magnesium to prevent leg cramps. Medical research indicates the mineral supplement most likely to help is magnesium lactate or citrate taken as 5mmol in the morning and 10mmol in the evening. However, magnesium is not easily absorbed through the digestive system, so I don’t personal recommend taking it orally. An easier way to absorb magnesium is through the skin. Keep in mind that your skin is actually an organ and everything and anything you put on it is absorbed into the body.
Hands down my favourite way to take in magnesium is a daily epsom salt bath at bedtime.
Epsom salt is made up of naturally occurring minerals magnesium and sulfate. Both doctors and researchers say that soaking in an Epsom salt bath is a safe, easy way to increase the body’s levels of both magnesium and sulfate. Take an Epsom salt bath, by adding 2 cups of Epsom salt to the water in a standard-sized bathtub and soaking for at least 12 minutes. The Epsom salts will dissolve quicker if you put them under the running water. The added bonus is that an epsom salt bath is a great way to promote relaxation as well.
Red Raspberry Leaf (tea or capsules) is the most easily assimilated form of calcium there is. Drink a cup of tea or take a capsule at least once during the day and a cup of tea or a capsule or two before bed. Note: consuming raspberry leaf (tea or capsules) is recommended only once a day in the second, and up to three times per day in the third trimester as it is a uterine tonic and will make the uterus more active.
Nettle leaves are one of the finest nourishing tonics known. It is reputed to have more chlorophyll than any other herb. Vitamins A, C, D and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron and sulfur are particularly abundant in nettles. Nettle leaves nourish and strengthen the kidneys, ease leg cramps and other spasms, diminish discomfort during and after birth, prevent hemorrhage after birth, reduce hemorrhoids, and increase the richness and amount of breast milk. It can be used through pregnancy. Dosage: 1 cup of nettle leaf tea per day.
Liquid chlorophyll is high in magnesium and potassium. It is a good blood builder (good for postpartum) and helps a woman to function while sleep-deprived. Eating a banana in the evening is also help to raise your potassium levels.
Homeopathic remedies usually called tissue salts or remedy for leg cramps can be found at your local health food store and are safe for pregnancy and go a long way to reducing cramps.
Avoid soft drinks, processed meats, and snack foods, which contain a lot of phosphorus. Excess phosphorus decreases the absorption of calcium and other beneficial minerals.
Avoid standing for long periods or sitting with your legs crossed.
Walk or swim as often as you can.
Rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes when sitting, at work, at dinner, or watching TV.
Stretch before bed. Stretching your calf muscles several times before you go to bed can help prevent night cramps completely. Many women also find eating a banana and drinking a glass on milk before bed really makes a difference.
To stop a cramp while it’s occurring, flex your foot (pull you toes and foot toward your leg). Getting out of bed and walking around may also give relief.
Use warm, moist heat on the cramp. Apply beneficial essential oils over the muscles to sooth it. When using essential oils be sure to use really good quality oils that are potent and pure; meaning free from contaminants and adulteration. Learn more about high quality essential oils here. For a muscle cramp, fill your palm with a carrier oil apply 1-2 drops of essential oil and massage over the muscle that is cramping for immediate relief.
My favourite combinations are…
- 1 drop Lavender and 1 drop Geranium essential oil
- 1 drop Lavender and 1 drop Grapefruit essential oil
- 1 drop Lavender and 1 drop Roman Chamomile essential oil
- 1 drop Lavender and 1 drop White Fir essential oil
- 1 drop Cypress essential oil and 1 drop Lavender essential oil (Cypress essential oil is generally recommended for the 3rd trimester only)
Every person has unique body chemistry and each essential oil also contains unique and complex chemistry. The magic happens where these two elements interact. It means that the best combination of essential oils for you, might be different that the best combination for your friend. To discover which of the following combinations are best for you, you’ll need to try each out and listen to your body’s response. In that way, you’ll learn which is the most effective option for your body.
Wishing you the healthiest pregnancy,
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