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How to Prevent Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

How to Prevent Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

If you’ve experienced leg cramps you know how horrible and excruciating they can be.  For some reason pregnancy increases your likelihood of cramping – an unpleasant fact that I experienced during my second pregnancy!  By the start of my third trimester I was waking up multiple times a week with cramps that would literally catapult me out of bed.  At first I tried common remedies such as increasing my potassium (ie. I ate bananas), staying hydrated and making sure to walk and/or stretch at least once a day.  This reduced but did not eliminate the cramps.  So I talked to my midwife and she said that many of her moms have successfully prevented leg cramps by increasing their magnesium consumption.

I looked into this further and found that magnesium is associated with cramping as well as a wide range of additional health benefits.  Studies show that it can help reduce muscle cramps, regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, promote bone health, balance mood, ease constipation and more.  These are important health benefits that extend far beyond pregnancy.  Yet according to the National Institute of Health, 68% of Americans are magnesium deficient!  This convinced me to seek out magnesium rich foods.  I hoped to reduce my cramps and figured that even if it didn’t work, I’d still get some great health benefits.  Common magnesium rich foods include:

  • Nuts (especially almonds, cashews and brazil nuts)
  • Seeds (especially flax, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower)
  • Dark leafy greens (such as spinach and chard)
  • Black beans
  • Blackstrap molasses

Nuts, seeds, greens and beans were already a part of our diet, blackstrap molasses not so much.  I bought a bottle from the health food aisle of our grocery store and wondered how on earth am I going to use this stuff?  It’s most commonly found in spiced desserts or things like barbecue sauce and baked beans, none of which I make very often.  Then I got the idea of stirring it directly into a glass of milk (or sometimes coffee) and I loved it – my two year old and I now drink “Mo Milk” all the time!  It’s full of nutrients, easy to make and I personally think it tastes great.  (Here’s our recipe and a description of it’s health benefits:

In addition to these dietary additions, I also started taking baths with Epsom salts.  Epsom salt is made of magnesium sulfate which is readily absorbed through your skin.  Bathing in Epsom salt can replenish your body’s magnesium level, promote relaxation, relieve pain and cramping, soothe your skin and flush toxins from your body.  (Plus I love any excuse to take a bath).  I bought a big box of Epsom salts from the grocery store for $3 and add 2 cups to my bath water.

In summary the biggest changes I made were drinking a cup of molasses milk each day and 1-2 Epson salt baths per week.  I also tried to eat nuts, seeds, greens and black beans at least once per week.  These simple additions have been easy, satisfying and best of all they actually worked!  I started this at 7 months pregnant at which point I was having cramps about every other day.  After starting this I had just 1 single cramp over the final 2 months of pregnancy!   This greatly improved my sleep, my comfort and my stress level (and Marshall’s too!).  If you’re pregnant, I totally recommend incorporating some or all of these items into your diet and lifestyle.  I hope they work as well for you as they did for me!


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