Common Leg Problems During Pregnancy

With all the extra weight, it's no wonder your legs ache.

Common Leg Problems During Pregnancy

While pregnancy is a time to celebrate the baby to come, our bodies go through several unwanted physical changes that we’d rather avoid. Nausea, heartburn, morning sickness, fatigue, and back pain are all frequent complaints during pregnancy that we all know very well. But what about our legs? With the extra weight that you have to carry around nonstop, leg problems are actually just as common, particularly during the last trimester. Though these ailments will likely go away after you deliver, you can do a few things to alleviate any discomfort you may be experiencing.

Here are 5 of the most common pregnancy leg problems, and what you can do to make it.

1. Swelling. During the third trimester, the hormone relaxin is released. This hormone doesn't just relaxes your pelvic ligaments for childbirth. It also lengthen foot ligaments and make you retain more water. During pregnancy, your blood vessels may also be smaller, which can make it hard for your body to let the extra fluid flow through. So what's the end result? Swelling in your legs and ankles. In fact, many women develop “cankles” -- a swelling of the ankle that is so large, you can't distinguish the shape of the ankles anymore.

The best way to manage swelling is to keep your feet elevated as often as possible especially towards the end of the day. In addition, because of the added weight, your center of gravity will shift so it is important to wear shoes that help support and balance you. A diet lower in salt could also help reduce water retention and, as a result, swelling.

2. Knee Pain. As you progress through the pregnancy, your knees will have to sustain extra weight, which can be really painful as it adds pressure on your joints (especially the lower extremities). Hormonal changes during pregnancy also contribute to knee pain. When the hormone relaxin is released, it also causes the joints around the knees to loosen. This could cause instability and your kneecap may feel less stable.

To alleviate knee pain, keep your legs elevated as much as possible and avoid standing for long stretches at a time. Consider wearing comfortable shoes and engaging in low-impact exercise.

3. Calf Muscle Cramps (a.k.a. Charley Horses). Leg cramps can appear when you least expect it -- for example, in the middle of the night, when your legs are tired. These painful muscle contractions usually occur in the calf. Leg cramps, experts say, could be a result of a calcium deficiency or excess phosphorous (found in sodas). For women, charley horses or leg cramps have been associated with dehydration (lack of potassium).

A daily intake of potassium rich sources such as bananas would thus be a good way to help prevent cramping. A short walk or pacing around your home during evening hours can increase circulation in your lower body, which can also keep cramping at bay. If you find yourself having to jump out of bed because the cramping and leg pain is unbearable, try to walk it out. You can also keep a heat pack ready to help the soreness that you may experience after cramping.

4. Sciatica Pain. Sciatica refers to pain shooting down your back or radiating down your leg. It’s caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve, a nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. Most women experience it late in their second or third trimester because the growing fetus adds pressure on the nerve.

Sciatica pain comes and goes. If you are desperate for some relief, try prenatal massages, gentle leg stretches, exercises like walking or yoga, and Tylenol.

5. Varicose Veins. According to dermatologist Anthony Rossi, "Women are particularly susceptible to varicose problem because vein walls and valves periodically become more dilated when progesterone increases. During pregnancy, circulating hormonal factors h increase the distensibility of vein walls and the veins have to deal with more circulating blood volume which causes more pressure on the veins." More specifically, pregnant women may experience varicose veins if they gain too much weight, stand for too long, which puts pressure on the lower extremities, or if your mother experienced them as well (yes, they are hereditary). They can cause discomfort and overall body fatigue.

Increasing circulation could help relieve discomfort and even prevent varicose veins in the first place. Try taking a walk every day, engaging in low-impact exercises such as swimming or using compression socks.

Pregnancy has its share of lower body ailments. But the good news is, most of them usually go away after pregnancy. If you happen to experience them, try to relax and consider the relief methods we've suggested. Do you have any tips on relieving leg pain during pregnancy?

Image via Prime Compression.

Rarely is a woman more concerned with what her body needs than when she's pregnant. We start to question and research everything, right? From swearing off turkey sandwiches to diving down the rabbit hole of prenatal supplements that make up what we lack, the stress of overthinking is real, mama.

One of the main reasons we launched the Motherly Shop is to help take some of that stress away. We've tracked down the best brands and products developed by people (and in many cases, women!) that truly work to serve the needs of real mamas, especially throughout the overwhelming transition into motherhood.

That's why we knew we had to introduce mamas-to-be to the science-backed and expertly-formulated protein collagen for pregnancy from Needed. And as one of our bestsellers, it's clear you've been looking for it, too.

Keep reading Show less

Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

Keep reading Show less