Q. I am 32 weeks pregnant and I have experienced leg cramps throughout my entire pregnancy. It only happens while I'm sleeping. Is this normal? What causes it, and how do I cure the pain?
A. Ah yes, the agonizing leg cramps! Quite normal, I assure you, but very annoying and painful indeed. I remember many late-night episodes of painful, distorted muscles, with my toes pointing straight down in extreme ballerina style. The only thing that helped was to force my pointy foot flat on the floor. Of course that meant quickly getting out of bed, which was a major feat by the third trimester.
Apparently, one of the causes of leg cramps during pregnancy is dehydration. I couldn't decide which was worse – not being able to fall asleep because of heartburn from the liquids I drank or waking up in the middle of the night with pain and distorted feet.
Low potassium in your diet is also known to be a cause of leg cramps. My friend Sharon swore that a banana milkshake before bed made all the difference for her. If you're not having trouble with heartburn at night (like I did), you might want to try the milkshake. Otherwise, all you can really do is practice your muscle massaging techniques. Yanking the toes straight up towards your knee may help.
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Q. I am 18 1/2 weeks pregnant and have gone through a lot of stress lately. I went to the doctor with bad menstrual-like cramps, back pain and leg pain. He told me I have a bladder infection. I feel that I have no symptoms of a bladder infection – no burning, frequent urination, etc. I have been told to stay off of my feet for two days now and possibly three. Do I need an ultrasound to make sure the baby is okay or does this sound like a bladder infection? I have had no bleeding.
A. Your doctor probably diagnosed your bladder infection with a urine test that showed elevated levels of bacteria. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) are not immediately apparent and they can be much more frequent during pregnancy. (See the other UTI questions for more details.) The symptoms you've had may or may not be related to the infection. The cramping and back pain may be Braxton Hicks contractions, which are normal at this point in the pregnancy. The leg pain is also a very common ailment. (See "Braxton Hicks contractions" and "leg pains" for more information.)