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Leg cramps during pregnancy

Legs cramps are painful and common during pregnancy. Find out what to do and when to get urgent medical help.

Leg cramps are painful spasms. They usually occur in your calf or foot muscles. The muscles involuntarily contract and this can last up to 10 minutes.

Leg cramps are common during pregnancy particularly in the second trimester (weeks 14 to 26) and third trimesters (weeks 27 to birth).

They often happen at night-time and can make you jump and yelp with pain.

Causes of leg cramps during pregnancy

There is no medical evidence to show a definitive cause of leg cramps.

Some doctors and midwives think that these cramps could be due various factors. These may include changes in your circulation or blood chemistry in pregnancy or tiredness in your leg muscles.

What to do during a leg cramp

Rub the muscle hard if you get a leg cramp. If you have a partner and they are nearby, get them to help with this.

Once you feel the sensation of a cramp about to start, point your heel down and this will gently pull your toes upwards. You will get a better stretch if your knee is straight.

Do not pull your toes aggressively. This could strain your calf muscle.

It is normal for your muscles to feel tender and sore for 24 hours after a leg cramp.

When to get medical help

Call your GP or your local GP Out of Hours serviceand ask for an urgent appointment today if your leg is red and swollen.

Contact your maternity hospital if you are unable to get an appointment with your GP.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

Page last reviewed: 14/11/2018
Next review due: 14/11/2021