You may not be able to see your legs when you are in the later stages of pregnancy but they can make sure you take notice of them with surges of horrible sensations and twitching that is restless leg syndrome (RLS). Add this to all the other things you are dealing with in your third trimester and it can turn what should be a beautiful experience into weeks or months of torment. What causes these apparently uncontrollable ‘creepy crawly’ sensations and what can you do about them?
The short answer to what causes restless legs in pregnancy is ‘no-one really knows’. Or maybe that should be lots of people think they know but no-one can prove it scientifically. Of course if you do know the cause of anything it is much easier to come up with treatments and solutions. In the case of RLS it seems there are far more solutions than there is understanding of the complaint and that leads me to be very wary of any proposed cures or treatments.
I am a 53 year old man and of course have not suffered from restless legs in pregnancy. Well, not unless you include all the running around and jumping through hoops etc. I had to do for my wife while she had our 4 children (and was very happy to do so I may add). I am however a life long sufferer of RLS and have researched the subject thoroughly and from that research and my own experiences I feel I have a good idea of what’s going on.
Restless legs in pregnancy is known as secondary RLS as the cause (pregnancy) is known. Of course the root cause is not known and that is where the speculation arises. What relevant things we do know about primary RLS (i.e. the majority of non-pregnant sufferers) is that you can stop or dramatically improve the symptoms by taking drugs that increase dopamine levels in the brain. That in turn stabilises the nerve receptors. This shows that what causes the horrible feelings in your legs is not a problem with your legs at all but a problem with that part of your brain that sends and receives signals to and from your legs.
Iron deficiency is a know cause of secondary RLS and of course many women suffer from anaemia when they are pregnant so it is logic step to think that this might cause restless legs in pregnancy. You will probably already be on various vitamin supplements during your pregnancy and checks for anaemia should be routine but it may be worth checking with your doctor. Don’t take anything without your doctors express permission!
You will be limited to what drugs you can take for restless legs in pregnancy and many women won’t take anything at all while pregnant unless their problem is life-threatening. We all know that the protection of your baby is paramount! This does limit the treatment you can have to natural supplements, vitamins and possible herbal remedies or to physical and mental techniques like massage, yoga, relaxation and meditation.
One recent study of that seems to hold a lot of credibility has shown that estrogen levels may have a major part to play in restless legs in pregnancy. In the study group the women who suffered from RLS were shown to have higher levels of estrogen than those who suffered no symptoms. These levels reduced after giving birth. Estrogens are so-called neuroactive steroid hormones. They are important for conception and pregnancy but also act directly in the brain.
On the bright side for any mothers to be is that only about 20% of pregnant women suffer from RLS and that probably includes women who already suffer pre-pregnancy. The symptoms normally appear in the later stages of pregnancy (last three months) and will almost certainly have gone before your baby is two weeks old
What more can you do to treat your restless legs in pregnancy? Well I suggest you take a look at this fantastic ebook that covers all the things that you can do to to stop the continual nightmare feeling in your legs. It was written by a fellow sufferer Mary Blaine, so she knows what she is talking about and understands the reality of RLS that only a sufferer can. My own experiences and this book have enabled me to successfully manage my RLS and it can do the same for you. Click on the link above to take a look at my blog and read more on RLS and review Mary’s amazing book.