This is an often incredibly painful and annoying condition, and cramp during pregnancy is very common. It tends to start during the second trimester and can affect the buttocks, thighs, calf’s and feet.
Cramp attacks tend to occur without warning and usually during periods of rest/sleep or first thing in the morning.
The cause of cramps during pregnancy is unknown, but it is thought that it is either by the increased weight from the pregnancy causing the muscles to fatigue, thereby causing spasms and pain or the expanding uterus putting pressure on the nerves and the blood vessels that return blood from your lower body.
It is also a theory that calcium deficiency and electrolyte imbalance can be a factor of cramp, but there has been no proven science that this is the case.
So to be on the safe side make sure you eat a balanced diet including lots of whole grains and leafy vegetables to make sure you are not deficient.
Also, avoid carbonated drinks as this may interfere with the absorption of electrolytes.
How to Prevent Leg Cramps
Massage is extremely beneficial for relaxing and reducing the tension in muscles that cause spasms and increases the circulation to tired muscles
Avoid standing and sitting for long periods of time as this causes pooling of the blood in the vessels in the calf’s
Gentle stretches taught at pregnancy yoga can be very beneficial, especially prior to bed
Support stockings during the day may be helpful for some
What to do if I get Cramp?
When a cramp attack arrives, gently raise your toes up towards you to stretch your calf muscle, or you can do this by using a towel behind your toes and gently stretch towards you and this should relieve the cramp, the pain may increase, but then should ease off.
After the pain has gone, gently massage the area to relax and soothe the muscle.
Seek Further Advice
If the pain does not relieve itself or if you get swelling, heat or redness in the area, please see your G.P. or Midwife immediately to rule out other underlying clotting problems.
As a specialist Pregnancy and Postnatal massage therapist, I thought in this blog post I would explain the benefits of regular massages during pregnancy and postnatally how it can help restore your body to a pre-pregnancy state.
During my pregnancy massage I use a special bodyCushion which allows you to lie on your front in total comfort and is very safe for you and your baby. All my client’s love this cushion as they have not been able to lie on their fronts for quite some time.
I massage from the 12th week of pregnancy, once you have had your first scan and use the special cushion. The cushion is also great to use once the baby is born as it has cut outs for the abdomen and chest area, which takes the pressure off those areas, especially when the milk is coming in.
I can also use Aromatherapy Essential Oils to enhance the benefits of the massage that are safe for both you and baby. They are a huge benefit during pregnancy especially if you are suffering sciatica, cramp, aches and pains and stretch marks.
Pregnancy is a wonderful time for a woman, but is also a time of many physical changes due to the extra weight from the baby putting pressure on joints, ligaments and organs often causing discomfort and pain.
Not only can pregnancy massage be physically beneficial, but the human touch can be comforting and provide emotional support during your pregnancy and preparation for giving birth. Pregnancy massage therapy has also been found to reduce anxiety and depression.
Research shows that the babies can also benefit greatly from massage as the “feel good” endorphins released by the mother during the massage are passed onto the baby. I often feel the baby come up to the surface to have a little massage of their own.
Receiving regular massage throughout the pregnancy is a great way to nurture your body and become aware of the growing baby within. This also helps with the ability to relax during labour often resulting in shorter and easier births, less pain and a lower rate of postnatal complications.
The benefits of pregnancy massage:-
Induces deep relaxation and peaceful sleep – When you are relaxed you will find that your sleep improves.
Helps to reduce emotional stress, anxiety and creates a sense of well-being – as already stated pregnancy is a time of great change and this, along with fluctuating hormones and broken sleep can sometimes cause stress levels to rise. This is ok as long as the stress is also balanced with time to relax and be nurtured. Regular massage gives you the space to deeply relax and rejuvenate and the time to enjoy your pregnancy and transition into motherhood.
Eases pregnancy discomfort – Massage can soothe back and shoulder pain, sciatica, cramp, sore hips and tired legs.
Stimulation of the circulation – This will distribute essential nutrients and fluid to all the vital organs, especially the placenta which will feed and aid the development of the baby.
Reduces swelling – Massage eases oedema in the feet, legs, hands and wrists, and helps to avoid varicose veins from developing.
Blood pressure – Helps to lower or keep blood pressure balanced.
Oxytocin – Massage encourages the release of Oxytocin which is a pain reducing hormone providing vital relief of pain during labour and birth.
The Postnatal Period
The birth of your baby will bring much joy and great happiness. Both physically and emotionally the postpartum is a time of great change. Postnatal massage is a good way to take care of yourself following the birth and having regular massages during the first year especially weekly for the first 6 weeks. (You are welcome to bring your baby whilst having your post-natal massage).
After having a baby, a mother’s life and her body are changed forever. Massage can support these changes and help lay the foundations for long-term emotional and physical health for both mother and baby.
When to start postnatal massage
For mother’s that delivered naturally or without complications then you can have a massage whenever you are comfortable and ready. For those that had Caesarian delivery, it is best to wait at least 2 weeks just so that the scar can heal.
Benefits of Postnatal massage:-
Provides deep relaxation – This is extremely important when you are exhausted due to broken sleep from night feeds and gives you time to care for yourself boosting energy levels and reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.
Helps promote postnatal recovery – Helping to restore you to a pre-pregnancy state. Your body may feel alien to you following the birth, so massage can help you re-adjust and return to your non-pregnant state, also reducing your uterus to the normal size.
Postnatal depression – May help prevent and provide support in cases of post-natal depression.
Eases aches and pains – Helps to ease back pain and neck pain from carrying the baby and breastfeeding.
Circulation – Helps to eliminate excess body fluids and reduces fluid retention.