Handling Restless Leg Syndrome During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman being examined by doctor for restless leg syndrome

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.

If you had it, what worked for you? I’d love to know!

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). Check out some tips and tricks for dealing with this unpleasant pregnancy symptom.

Our next recos:

The End of Pregnancy is the Worst

Last Month of Pregnancy Checklist

A G-Rated Explanation of What Your Cervix Does During Labor

Written By
More from Heather Dixon

A Dad’s Guide to Raising Baby Girls

My husband and I are fortunate enough to be parents to three...
Read More

You May Also Like


  • I had it with both pregnancies – so awful! I found with the latter one that stretching definitely helped (tried lots of bedtime yoga with the first, and it didn’t seem to make a difference). But it was a specific stretch that did it. Even though the RLS seemed to be affecting my lower legs the most, making me want to stretch my calves and rotate my feet/ankles, I found the relief only came when I did a deep quad stretch (pulling my heel to butt and holding for several seconds). Fortunately, I could do this in bed!

  • I have restless LEG just the right one after a soccer injury (Dr thinks its related to inflammation). It was so bad during my pregnancy that I basically stopped sleeping until I found out that antihistamines can make it worse. So I stopped taking allergy meds and started sleeping again. But it came back with a vengeance during labour, because the cord was pinched I had to stay in one position and couldn’t walk it off, it was torture. When I was eventually given an epidural for my emergency c-section it was the sweetest relief not to be able to feel my legs anymore.

  • I had RLS for the last few months of my pregnancy- it even effected my arms as well. The only things that helped me were to do some yoga stretches before bed and also to take a hot shower right before I laid down and let the hot water hit my muscles for a few minutes.

  • I use a magnesium spray (made from distilled water and magnesium flakes). I apply it to the soles of my feet, and put socks on to help it absorb. It works wonders!

  • Magnesium supplements and baths with epsom salt (which contains magnesium) were amazing. I also found that using a specific foot cream (has some essential oils that create a cooling sensation) on my feet and lower legs, and covering with socks for a bit of of compression right before bed was really helpful. Not trying to promote the brand or anything, but the footcream I used was Aveda foot relief. Before I uncovered the miracle of magnesium supplements, I would usually get woken up by it once or twice a night and walking around (specifically: taking stairs) helped. Good luck ladies!!

  • Bananas really helped me as well as eating more red meat in general (I was enemic and hated the iron pills). My Dr also told me that drinking a bit of tonic water when it acted up could help. The active ingredient in it is actually used in RLS medication I heard.

  • I have RLS even when I’m not pregnant (thanks, genetics) and pregnancy dialed it up to 11, to the point where my legs were involuntarily moving and waking me up. Stretching became a required part of my bedtime routine, and if I skipped it I was certain to be awake at 3am and trying to stretch out my quads in bed without waking up my husband (it turns out that yoga isn’t a stealthy bedtime activity).

  • This will sound super bizzare but my husband “stretches” my legs every night by pulling on my foot while I lie down. He does it with a fair amount of strength and does it five times to each leg. It seriously can help.

  • Hey 🙂 I had RLS at the end of my pregnancy. What really helped me was acupuncture. It didn’t go entirely away, but it made it ok. I had 1-2 sessions a week.

  • I have had RLS my whole life and it was much worse during pregnancy.
    Taking magnesium helped a lot.

    A couple other things that helped which were not listed above were 1) don’t get overtired. Letting yourself become too tired by bedtime (staying up late or overdoing it during the day) makes RLS so much worse so try to go to sleep earlier. 2) rinse your legs/feet in cool water before bed. Not a bath just a rinse in the shower. I don’t know why this works but it does. It can be really unpleasant, but someone recommended it to me when I was pregnant with my first baby and RLS was really bad and I tried it when I was desperate and it worked. After that I would do it if I started to feel that tingling over-tired RLS sensation in my legs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.