Restless Leg Syndrome in Pregnancy: A Little Thing We Like to Call “Runny Legs”
By: Lisa Donovan
As much as I hate to admit it, if it had never happened to me I would think it was a hoax. I would write it off as a hypochondriac's fabrication. I would look at the symptoms ("when you sit or lie down, do you have a strong desire to move your legs?") and laugh mockingly. But, unfortunately, it has happened to me. My two last trimesters during my second pregnancy was riddled with night time angst — all because of RLS. And, now that I have done some research and asked some questions, I have come to discover that this nuisance of a malady happens to quite a lot of women during pregnancy. My best friend had it through all three of her pregnancies. We call it "the runny legs".
I suppose it is a little different for everyone, but, my general synopsis of what this feels like goes a little like this: the constant urge to stretch my legs and feet; during my most "restful" hours my legs would twitch uncontrollably; I had a complete inability to sit still during the night; and, finally, itching from my knees down. I tried everything — even my sister in law's bad advice to take Motrin until it went away (which my OB/GYN doctor told me, afterward, was a big no-no — do not take Motrin in your last trimester). I found myself sleeping in the shower under scalding hot water, just to alleviate some of the irritating discomfort. My husband would stay up and rub my legs — it gave me one good night of rest but, honestly, most of the time it never did any good. Sleep was becoming a phantom in my life. Rest was nonexistent. I was slowly being driven mad.
Several factors may be at play if you are finding that this is an issue in your pregnancy. I discovered that, especially in pregnant women, this is often associated with low iron levels and anemia. I knew I was not anemic but, since I am a vegetarian, I gave great consideration to the fact that my iron may not be the most stellar. Getting your iron tested is a good first step to take. If you find that it is low supplement your diet with iron, B12 or Folate. Discuss with your doctor what supplement would be a good addition to your prenatal vitamin — over doing it can have just as much negative impact.
Some other things to take into consideration if you are experiencing "runny legs":
- Looking at medications you may be taking which make RLS worse. These may include drugs used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions, nausea, colds, allergies and depression.
- Looking at any herbal and over-the-counter medicines you may be taking to see if they could be worsening your RLS.
- Identifying habits and activities that worsen RLS symptoms.
- Looking at your diet to assure it is healthy and balanced.
- Discussing whether or not antihistamines could be contributing to your RLS.
- Eliminating your alcohol intake.
- Looking at various activities that may help you personally deal with RLS. These could include walking, stretching, taking a hot or cold bath, massaging, acupressure, or relaxation techniques.
- Attempting to keep your mind engaged with activities like discussions, needlework or video games when you have to stay seated.
- Implementing a program of good sleep habits.
- Possibly eliminating caffeine from your diet to aid in general sleep hygiene
My relationship with RLS was over a few weeks after I gave birth. This is the case with most women experiencing it during pregnancy. Most never deal with it again and it becomes a quirky story to tell at cocktail parties ("her legs would freak out all night while she slept...it was really creepy" has come out of my husband's mouth one too many times). Though there are a great many people dealing with it daily who aren't pregnant, from what I can gather, you as a pregnant woman, have a light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn't seem to last past the first few weeks postpartum — it certainly didn't for me or for anyone I know. So, if you are in the middle of this treacherous, crazy runny leg experience just talk it over with your doctor (check your blood levels) and brace yourself for some seriously crazy discomfort — and remember, with the sweet arrival of that baby in your belly also comes your relief from RLS.