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How to Find Relief for Restless Legs During Pregnancy

By Marisa Iallonardo
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
April 26, 2023

If you experience the symptoms of restless legs syndrome during pregnancy, it could prevent you from getting the sleep you need. Read on for more about the condition—and how you can find relief.

Restless Legs Syndrome and Pregnancy

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is when someone experiences a repeated sensation of needing to move their legs. It may feel like twitching, pulling, jitters, or even like something is crawling on the skin, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “This feeling often presents at night and can interfere with sleep,” Kelley Robrock, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Axia Women’s Health, OB/GYN of Indiana.

Research suggests that pregnant people are two to three times more likely to experience RLS than those who aren’t expecting. “Pregnancy is a risk factor for restless legs syndrome,” explains Robrock. “We believe this may be related to deficient iron and folate levels, hormonal fluctuations, or general swelling that can occur during pregnancy.”

RLS is most common during the second and third trimesters, says Robrock. Some people may not realize there are ways to find relief. “I think there are so many uncomfortable things that happen in the third trimester, perhaps patients chalk it up to being normal or part of the course,” Cheruba Prabakar, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn in private practice in Oakland, California, says.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t ease some of the sensations and rest a bit easier at night.

Ways to Relieve Restless Legs During Pregnancy

If you’re experiencing symptoms of RLS, talk to your provider, who can suggest ways to help. While there aren’t specific medications to take for RLS in pregnancy, there may be supplements that can help. Be sure to take your prenatal vitamin daily to avoid potential vitamin deficiencies. Also, talk to your doctor about whether or not you should take a magnesium supplement, which can help some people with this condition. Your doctor should approve any supplements before you take them.

Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day and avoid or limit caffeine, recommends Robrock. She also suggests having a calming bedtime routine, which can include stretching and a warm bath to calm your legs before turning in for the night.

Massaging your legs with lotion can help keep the blood circulating and relieve some of the sensations you might be feeling, says Prabakar. You might also try wearing compression stockings during the day, since those can help with circulation.

Also, pay close attention to the sensations you’re experiencing in your legs, and let your doctor know about your symptoms. “If you experience pain or swelling in your leg, with one leg more swollen than the other, this could be a sign of a potential blood clot,” says Robrock. Pregnant people are at higher risk for blood clots in the legs, which can be very dangerous.

Will Restless Legs Go Away?

In most cases, symptoms of RLS go away after the baby is born, though there’s a slim chance you may experience them in the future. In the meantime, practice self-care and calming bedtime rituals to help you cope.

There’s a link between poor sleep quality and an increased risk of mood disorders during pregnancy and postpartum, says Robrock. Talk to your provider about any sleep concerns you have.

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