A plea for help came through on the Perth Mums Group forum recently – a pregnant mum was suffering from Restless Legs, and she asked the other members their advice. This article is a summary of their responses – both conventional and unconventional.
This should not be used in place of your doctor’s advice and please remember to speak with your obstetrician before starting any new therapy.
The mum was in dire straits after suffering for months: ‘It’s so annoying,’ she wrote. ‘It can take me up to four hours a night to fall asleep and by the time I get to sleep, a couple of hours later I’m up again from my partner’s work alarm, which sets it off again when I get woken up!”
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The response was immediate – with more than 30 other mums coming to her aid with support and advice.
“I wish I could help,’ one mum wrote, ‘but I can only offer sympathy. I had that too and had to get up every hour to walk around, it was horrible. It's 6 years ago now and I still cringe thinking about those long horrible nights’
Restless Legs is a considered a condition of the nervous system, although the cause is generally unknown. Sufferers experience the compelling need to move the legs and the sensation can range from creeping and cramping to shooting darts of pain. It is usually worse in the evening and is typically a problem when trying to sleep. It is very common in pregnancy.
As the mum wrote, ‘It’s a weird sensation that makes me feel like I could run a marathon through the bottom half of my body.’
Another mum sympathised, saying she spent almost a year walking the house at night before she found something that helped, and another woman said that her restless legs continued for years after her daughter was born. “I'm learning that it comes on when I'm over tired, if I've had too much caffeine and if I get touched on the leg or foot while falling asleep.’
One of the major effects of restless legs at night time is the resultant loss of sleep and exhaustion the next day.
Magnesium/supplements Most women found relief with magnesium supplements, which could be taken in a variety of forms including pills, sprays and powders.
One mum suggested a magnesium oil spray that is sprayed directly on the legs ‘it is awesome as it’s absorbed straight away, I use this for my aches and pains, wish I'd know about it when I had restless legs while pregnant.’ Another mum agreed saying that she recommended ‘Magnesium oil sprayed onto your legs and on the top of your feet for a deeper sleep. You can also use it for aches and pains.’
Magnesium can also be taken in tablet form, with one mum saying it ‘was a godsend’. She would take one tablet 30 minutes before bed and then another if she woke during the night.
Pre-made magnesium products such as CrampEze and MuscleEze were both recommended. A number of mums had used the powdered MuscleEze which you mixed into a drink and had before bedtime. One mum wrote ‘it works miracles for restless legs and will help you sleep well too’.
Another supplement recommended were ‘Juiceplus veggie and fruit capsules! They will help you sleep! And they are amazing for your pregnancy.’
Compression leggings Many responders said that magnesium supplements worked best in conjunction with compression socks. One mum wrote: ‘Compression socks and CPMP (calcium phosphate and magnesium phosphate) - has to be both combined. The magnesium is just for the cramps but with the calcium together it seems to help restless legs. A few in my family have had it ... I spent almost a year walking the house at night before I found something that helps!’
Some mums got their compression stockings from their doctors at the hospital, others said they purchased them from chemists or online. One mum was so impressed with how well they worked she wrote ‘they were dreamy and helped!!’
Exercises and massage Other techniques suggested were a range of exercises such as calf and tendon stretches as well as leg rubs and massages.
One mum wrote that she was helped by ’simple calf and Achilles tendon stretches before bed’ while others recommended ‘therapeutic massages.’
Probably the most popular suggestion was ‘getting hubby to rub your legs for you. Not because it helps, but because it just feels nice and you can use the restless leg issue as a viable excuse that he won't even know is a sham.’
Water Keeping hydrated was also mentioned as a way to reduce the effects of restless legs, warning that dehydration tended to increase symptoms.
Less conventional suggestions There were also some less common suggestions which still rate a mention.
One mum recommended a ‘soap bar between your legs. It’s an old wives tale but it does work’ while another woman said she ‘found bananas helped’ (they are a source of natural magnesium).
A few mums recommended hot baths before bed, with or without Epsom Salts.
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Please feel free to add what worked for you in the comments section.