Pregnant woman being examined by doctor for restless leg syndrome
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Handling Restless Leg Syndrome During Pregnancy

By Heather Dixon
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As if things like nausea, exhaustion and non-stop peeing aren’t annoying enough during your pregnancy – there’s also something rather delightful you may experience called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

RLS – or ‘the jimmy legs’ as I like to refer to it – can be described as a strong or uncontrollable desire to move your legs in order to relieve an unpleasant sensation. Your legs may feel like they’re tingling or burning – or they might just feel uncomfortable. Some women even describe the feeling as similar to having a panic attack.

Fortunately, Restless Leg Syndrome is not dangerous or a sign that something is wrong. But it can disrupt your sleep – and that is definitely not enjoyable when you’re pregnant.

What causes it?

RLS typically peaks around the 7th or 8th month of pregnancy and usually disappears altogether by the time you have your baby. It doesn’t seem like anyone really knows what causes it. But there are a number of theories about the possible culprits.

  • Iron deficiency, folate deficiency and hormonal changes are all possible causes
  • Caffeine can make symptoms worse so if you can handle it, you may want to try eliminating caffeine from your diet completely
  • Lying in bed reading or watching television before you go to sleep can make things worse – so basically, don’t do anything enjoyable and you’ll be fine

There aren’t any official tests to diagnose it, but your doctor may have your iron levels checked.

Tips for managing it

Most women say that the things that work the best for them include:

  • Walking (even just around the house)
  • Stretching
  • Warm baths
  • Massages and leg rubs
  • Rinsing your legs and feet in cool water before bed (not a full bath, just rinsing the feet)
  • Some women keep a food journal to see if something they eat (typically later in the day) is triggering the jumpy legs at night
  • You could ask your doctor or midwife if you might need an iron supplement – or possibly magnesium, vitamin B12, or folate
  • Try avoiding caffeine to see if it helps you get a better night’s sleep
  • The National Sleep Foundation even suggests a foot wrap treatment that applies pressure to your feet and apparently signals your brain to relax your muscles. Sounds interesting, but you need a prescription and the foot wraps are pretty pricey, so you may want to try out compression socks first. Although it couldn’t hurt to ask your doctor or midwife about it!

Some people even swear by eating bananas or sleeping with a bar of soap under the covers by your feet. Hey – if you’re willing to try anything, why not? Having had it myself, I know how uncomfortable and annoying RLS is. I personally found that sleeping with a giant pregnancy body pillow between my legs was the best way for me to get comfortable.

The good news is – it doesn’t often last very long. And with a few of these tips, you’ll hopefully be able to manage it until your weeble arrives and the symptoms subside.

Did you have Restless Leg Syndrome During Pregnancy?

Did anything work for you? I’d love to know!

Our next reco: The End of Pregnancy is the Worst

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