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Natural Solutions for Leg and Muscle Cramps in Pregnancy

July 8, 2011

Oh my poor husband – he had the “pleasure” of being woken up from a deep sleep to the sound of me yelling “RUB MY LEG!”  repeated because of night cramps.   Muscle cramps – there is nothing fun about them.  Unfortunately they are more common during pregnancy than at other times and often occur during the night.  As if you weren’t already waking up enough times each night to change position or go to the bathroom.

However there is hope.  There are things you can do to decrease the frequency of muscle cramps.  Start making some changes – your legs and your partner will thank you.

The first thing to consider is diet.

Too little water and/or protein in the diet are responsible for many of the discomforts of pregnancy, including high blood pressure, nausea, and leg cramps. A minimum of two litres of water per day (and far more in our dry Saskatchewan climate) is needed for proper hydration in pregnancy. At lease 60 grams, and preferably 75-80 grams of protein per day is recommended.

Many sources recommend extra calcium, potassium and/or magnesium to prevent leg cramps. Medical research indicates the mineral supplement most likely to help is magnesium lactate or citrate taken as 5mmol in the morning and 10mmol in the evening.  However, magnesium is not easily absorbed through the digestive system, so I don’t personal recommend taking it orally.  An easier way to absorb magnesium is through the skin.  Keep in mind that your skin is actually an organ and everything and anything you put on it is absorbed into the body through the body stream.  Hands down my favourite way to take in magnesium is a daily epsom salt bath at bedtime.  Epsom salt is made up of naturally occurring minerals magnesium and sulfate.  Both doctors and researchers say that soaking in an Epsom salt bath is a safe, easy way to increase the body’s levels of both magnesium and sulfate.  Take an Epsom salt bath, by adding 2 cups of Epsom salt to the water in a standard-sized bathtub and soaking for at least 12 minutes. The Epsom salt will dissolve quicker if you put it under the running water.  The added bonus is that an epsom salt bath is a great way to promote relaxation as well.

Red Raspberry Leaf (tea or capsules) is the most easily assimilated form of calcium there is. Take a cup of tea or a capsule at least once during the day and a cup of tea or a capsule or two before bed.

Nettle leaves are one of the finest nourishing tonics known. It is reputed to have more chlorophyll than any other herb. Vitamins A, C, D and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron and sulfur are particularly abundant in nettles. Nettle leaves nourish and strengthen the kidneys, ease leg cramps and other spasms, diminish discomfort during and after birth, prevent hemorrhage after birth, reduce hemorrhoids, and increase the richness and amount of breast milk. It can be used through pregnancy. Dosage: 1 cup of nettle leaf tea per day (same as Red Raspberry Leaf Tea).

Liquid chlorophyll is high in magnesium and potassium. It is a good blood builder (good for postpartum) and helps a woman to function while sleep-deprived.   Eating a banana in the evening is also help to raise your potassium levels.

Homeopathic remedies usually called tissue salts or remedy for leg cramps can be found at your local health food store and are safe for pregnancy and go a long way to reducing cramps.

Avoid soft drinks, processed meats, and snack foods, which contain a lot of phosphorus. Excess phosphorus decreases the absorption of calcium and other beneficial minerals.

Avoid standing for long periods or sitting with your legs crossed.

Walk or swim as often as you can.

Rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes when sitting, at work, at dinner, or watching TV.

Stretch before bed. Stretching your calf muscles several times before you go to bed could help prevent night cramps completely.  Many women also find eating a banana and drinking a glass on milk before bed really makes a difference.

To stop a cramp while it’s occurring, flex your foot (pull you toes and foot toward your leg). Getting out of bed and walking around may also give relief.

Use warm, moist heat on the cramp.   Apply beneficial essential oils over the muscles to sooth it.   When using essential oils be sure to use really good quality oils that are pure (free from contaminants) and potent.  I love using doTERRA essential with my family and my students.  They are the best quality oils I have found.  For a muscle cramp, topically apply 2-5 drops of Aromatouch Massage Blend, Deep Blue Soothing Blend, or Past Tense Tension Blend, or Cypress oil directly to the muscle area affected with massage strokes for immediate relief.

Wishing you the healthiest pregnancy you can have,


If you found this article helpful, you might also enjoy these two posts.

UltraSounds… Safe? Risky?

Women are well aware of benefits that come with a healthy diet and lifestyle during pregnancy.   But women may not be adequately informed regarding another possible risk during pregnancy. Health Canada has detailed recommendations regarding the safe use of ultrasound, including a list of when it is considered potentially unsafe. Based on research, Health Canada says: Keep Reading.

Getting Your Protein in Pregnancy… The Protein Snack Plate

As far as nutrition goes, most of the families I work with have a pretty clean wholesome diet to begin with, but I wanted them to  start to focus on making sure to get the 75-100 grams of protein each day.  Why is protein so important in pregnancy?  Well the amino acids found in protein form the basic building blocks for cell development.  You use protein every day of your life to build and create new cells.  Keep Reading

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