Restless Legs Syndrome - also known as RLS - affects nearly 1 in 5 pregnant women. Characterised by an uncomfortable sensation in the legs, RLS can be an extremely unpleasant and disruptive experience for many pregnant women. Although the exact underlying causes of this condition aren’t known, there are some simple techniques to help alleviate these symptoms.
What causes Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless Leg Syndrome is a remarkably common condition amongst pregnant women. According to recent studies, in fact, somewhere around 1 in 5 women report experiencing this condition during their pregnancy. Most commonly, pregnant women will often experience the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome in the final three months of their pregnancy.
Although the exact underlying cause of this condition is not known, some researchers believe the condition is linked to how the body processes dopamine, a chemical in our bodies which is linked to muscle movement. Whatever the exact underlying cause, RLS can be an extremely unpleasant and disruptive experience. For pregnant women - many of whom are already suffering through pregnancy-related sleep deprivation and a range of physical side-effects - RLS only compounds the problem.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some ways to help alleviate the symptoms of RLS:
Many people with RLS find some quick, temporary relief by massaging their legs or simply getting up and walking around a little, and giving their muscles a stretch. This, however, is only a temporary solution - as most people tend to notice the symptoms return once they’ve returned to lying down.
A more long-term and effective strategy for dealing with RLS is to exercise on a daily basis. Many people report that regular exercise has helped reduce some of the symptoms associated with RLS. If you are exercising regularly, however, it’s important to keep in mind that exercising right before bedtime can make you agitated and restless. For that reason, avoid exercising within three to four hours of your regular bedtime. Needless to say, never perform exercise routines that are unsafe for pregnant women. Always discuss any exercise regimen with your healthcare professional.
Practice a Healthy Sleep Routine
In order to avoid RLS, it’s important to get into a healthy sleep routine. By establishing and following a particular routine, you can help improve your sleep patterns overall. For example, a good sleep routine might involve unwinding with a bath or meditating, followed by changing into comfortable night-wear, and dimming the lights.
Also, avoid over-stimulating yourself before bed-time. There’s that old adage when it comes to good sleep hygiene: ‘keep your bed for sleeping and sex’. Try not to sit in bed watching TV or browsing the Web. Although reading can help some people relax, it can also have the opposite effect. Be cautious about what kinds of activities you do before bedtime - reading, watching TV, or using the computer - as these can get your mind working too much.
Limit Caffeine Intake
Some people have noticed a correlation between RLS and caffeine intake. Because too much caffeine has a tendency to keep people awake at night, it has a tendency to exacerbate the symptoms of RLS. For this reason, avoid drinking caffeinated drinks within 5 to 6 hours of bedtime. Even at that, however, it’s probably a good idea to limit your overall intake in the early hours of the day too. If you notice yourself suffering the symptoms of RLS, try reduce your caffeine intake entirely, and see if the symptoms abate.
Some people have reported that bathing your legs in cool or warm water can help provide relief for RLS. If you happen to be experiencing discomfort or uncomfortableness from RLS, fill your bath-tub up with some warm water and rest your legs in the water for awhile.
Sometimes, RLS is linked to low levels of iron or folic acid. For this reason, if you are experiencing RLS, discuss the possibility of using supplements with your doctor. Never, however, take supplements during your pregnancy without talking to your doctor beforehand.
*If you are experiencing sleep loss or other disruptions due to RLS or what you believe to be RLS, discuss this with your healthcare professional. Never take any medication or supplements while pregnant without getting prior approval from your doctor.