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Leg cramps during pregnancy

4-minute read

Leg pain can sometimes be a sign of a blood clot. If pain in your leg doesn’t go away, or if your leg is red, warm or swollen, see your doctor immediately.

Key facts

  • Up to 3 in 10 people who are pregnant get leg cramps.
  • Cramps are most common in your calf muscles.
  • Cramps commonly happen at night in late pregnancy.
  • To prevent leg cramps, try stretching your leg muscles before you go to bed and drink plenty of water.
  • To ease a cramp, pull your toes up towards your ankle, rub the muscle, walk around or apply a heat pack.

What are leg cramps?

Leg cramps (pains) affect up to 3 in 10 people who are pregnant. They usually occur in your calf muscles, but can also occur in your thighs or feet. A cramp is a sign that your muscles are contracting very tightly when they shouldn’t be. This happens when acid builds up in your muscles.

Cramps usually happen at night. They are more common in your second and third trimesters.

Leg cramps are not the same as pelvic cramps.

What causes leg cramps during pregnancy?

There are many reasons suggested for cramps while you’re pregnant, such as changes to your metabolism, having a vitamin deficiency, being too active or not being active enough. However, nobody really knows why they occur in pregnancy.

How can I get rid of cramps?

To ease a leg cramp, you can try:

  • stretching the muscle by pulling your toes hard up towards the front of your ankle
  • rubbing the muscle firmly
  • walking around
  • a heat pack

If you have a partner, you could ask them to help.

If your muscles are still sore after the cramp has gone, you can take paracetamol for pain relief.

How can I prevent leg cramps?

Things you can try that might help prevent cramps include:

  • stretching your calf muscles before you go to bed
  • drinking plenty of water
  • having a warm bath before you go to bed
  • eating a balanced diet
  • avoiding stretching your leg while pointing your toes

Magnesium, calcium, vitamin B and vitamin C have been suggested as a treatment for cramps. It’s not clear whether any of these supplements work, but people often try magnesium and calcium. If you’re interested in trying supplements, talk to your doctor or midwife about whether they might be suitable for you.

When should I talk to my doctor or midwife about cramps?

If leg cramps are bothering you, talk to your doctor or midwife.

Leg pain can sometimes be a sign of a blood clot. If pain in your leg doesn’t go away, or if your leg is red, warm or swollen, see your doctor immediately.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

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

Last reviewed: July 2022


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