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How Can I Relieve My Pregnancy Leg Cramps?

Now that I’m in my third trimester, I keep getting these painful cramps in my calves. Sometimes they even wake me up at night. What can I do to make them stop?
Caroline

You're not alone — many pregnant women get these lower leg cramps, often in the middle of the night. Experts aren't sure what causes "charley horses" (the nonclinical name for painful cramps in your calf muscles). Although they can be extremely painful, charley horses are — luckily! — usually momentary.

What might help:

  • Do calf stretches before bed to prevent the cramps from occurring. But make sure not to point your toes.
  • Straighten your leg and flex your foot when you get a cramp. A gentle massage of the calf may help relax the muscle.
  • Make sure you are drinking enough fluids during the day.
  • Get regular exercise, which can help reduce cramps.

It was once thought that leg cramps were caused by low levels of nutrients like calcium in the blood, but there's no good evidence that taking supplements is helpful in treating or preventing leg cramps. If the leg pain doesn't resolve, is severe, or is accompanied by swelling, warmth, or redness in the leg or difficulty walking, talk with your health care provider right away.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: August 2009

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