Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Leg cramps during pregnancy

3-minute read

Along with swelling and varicose veins, leg cramps are a normal but sometimes uncomfortable part of pregnancy. Knowing what to do when you get a cramp and how to prevent cramps from happening can make your pregnancy a bit more comfortable.

This article is about leg cramps only. To find out more about pelvic cramps, check out our article on pelvic pain in pregnancy, or speak with your doctor or midwife.

What are cramps and why are they common during pregnancy?

Cramps are a sudden, sharp pain, usually in your calf muscles or feet. A cramp is a sign that your muscles are contracting very tightly when they shouldn’t be. They usually happen at night and are more common late in your pregnancy. They can be very uncomfortable and it can be hard to know what to do.

There are many suggested reasons for cramps while you’re pregnant – carrying extra weight, changes to your metabolism, having a vitamin deficiency, being too active or not being active enough. The truth is that nobody really knows.

Can leg cramps be prevented?

Certain exercises might help you to prevent cramps.

Gentle exercises, such as walking or swimming, and specific exercises, including calf raises and walking on the spot, are good for helping blood flow in the legs and might help to prevent cramping.

In fact, regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy is a good idea, because it helps your body get used to the physical changes that happen throughout pregnancy.

You could try specific foot and leg muscle exercises such as:

  • bending and stretching your foot vigorously up and down 30 times
  • rotating your foot 8 times one way and 8 times the other
  • repeating with the other foot

Stretching your calf muscles before you go to bed might help to prevent cramps at night.

A magnesium supplement might also help. Talk to your doctor about whether this could work for you.

How to get rid of cramps

To ease a leg cramp, it usually helps if you stretch the muscle by pulling your toes hard up towards your ankle. You can also rub the muscle firmly or walk around for a while. If you have a partner, ask them to help.

Calcium is sometimes suggested as a treatment for cramps, but there isn't any evidence that this works.

When to talk to your doctor or midwife about your cramps

You should talk to your doctor or midwife about your cramps if:

If you're not sure what to do when you get a cramp, or don't know the best way to deal with them, talk to your doctor or midwife.

You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to talk to a maternal child health nurse.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Common health problems in pregnancy

During your pregnancy you may have a number of annoying problems that are not dangerous but may need some attention

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Pregnancy at week 28

You are now in the third trimester and you'll probably be feeling many of the common discomforts of pregnancy, like a sore back, swelling, heartburn or cramps.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Common discomforts during pregnancy

Your body has a great deal to do during pregnancy. Sometimes the changes taking place will cause irritation or discomfort, and on occasions they may seem quite alarming.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

The Pink Elephants Support Network - What is Miscarriage?

The vast majority of miscarriages will happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with some even happening before you knew you would have known you were pregnant

Read more on Pink Elephants Support Network website

Pregnancy health problems & complications | Raising Children Network

Many pregnancy health problems are mild, but always call your doctor if you’re worried about symptoms. A healthy lifestyle can help you avoid health problems.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Caring for your body during pregnancy - physiotherapy advice

Congratulations on your pregnancy! Pregnancy can have a profound and lasting effect on your body, with many women experiencing physical discomfort at differing stages of their pregnancy

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Pregnancy - signs and symptoms - Better Health Channel

All women experience pregnancy differently, and you will experience different symptoms at different stages of your pregnancy.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Pregnancy at week 33

Your baby's brain and nervous system are now fully developed, and the baby is continuing to gain weight. You'll probably also be feeling sore and tired.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy at week 25

As you are approaching the end of the second trimester, you might be starting to feel a bit uncomfortable as your baby continues to grow.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy stages and changes - Better Health Channel

It’s helpful to have an idea of how your body may react to the different stages of pregnancy. It also helps to know how pregnancy may affect your emotions and feelings.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.