How to Control Cramps During Pregnancy

Three Methods:Preventing CrampsRelieving CrampsUnderstanding Pregnancy Cramps

Bringing a child into this world is a miraculous thing, but being pregnant also has its share of discomforts. In particular, cramps can be a major pain. Muscle cramps occur mostly during the second trimester and part of the third trimester. Luckily, there are ways to prevent and relieve cramps as they occur.

Method 1
Preventing Cramps

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    Avoid making any sudden movements. Try to avoid making sudden movements, particularly during the last two trimesters of your pregnancy. Keeping your movements slow will help you to avoid stretching the round ligaments of your uterus, minimizing the risk of cramps.[1]
    • For example, take your time getting out of bed.
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    Wear loose, comfortable clothes. Try to wear loose clothing rather than tight clothing. Tight clothes can compress your distended abdomen, which can cause your to start having cramps. Instead, wear light, loose clothing that will keep you comfortable and cramp-free.
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    Don’t overeat. Be careful with your meals; too much food can cause abdominal cramps to kick in. Instead, try to eat small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals. This will keep you from eating too much.
    • Try eating three small meals with one snack in between each meal. Try to eat roughly the same amount of food each time you eat.
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    Avoid any intense physical activity. Too much physical activity can lead to contractions of the uterus or stretching of the round ligament, which in turn can cause cramps. If you do some physical activity and begin to feel cramps, stop immediately.
    • If you think your physical effort may be causing the cramps, call your gynecologist to discuss whether or not you should do any physical activity during your pregnancy.
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    Keep your legs elevated as much as possible. Your legs should be elevated frequently throughout the day to improve circulation. Whenever you sit down, try to elevate your legs to avoid leg cramps. When you are standing, remember to keep moving around so that blood doesn’t pool in your lower extremities.
    • When sleeping, two or three pillows should be placed under your legs to keep them elevated while you sleep.
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    Drink a sufficient amount of fluids. Cramping can also be caused by dehydration. Try to drink liquids throughout the day to avoid becoming dehydrated. You do not have to drink just water; you can try other liquids like sports drinks and coconut water. Sports drinks like Gatorade are packed with electrolytes that can help to control cramps.[2]
    • Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks because these contain diuretic properties which can make you dehydrated.
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    Have a healthy, balanced diet. Make sure that your diet is composed of food that is rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These are all essential nutrients that are needed for optimal nerve and muscle functioning.[3]
    • Foods that are rich in calcium include milk, poultry, meat, and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt.
    • Magnesium rich foods often come from green and leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach. Squash, beans, and fish are also good sources of magnesium.
    • Foods that are rich in potassium include bananas, salmon, avocados, and white mushrooms.
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    Eat some fiber rich foods. Include in your diet more fiber-rich foods because these foods can help to regulate your digestive system and keep you from getting constipated. When you get constipated, you might experience abdominal cramps. Fiber-rich foods include:
    • Bran flakes, brown rice, spaghetti or vegetables like boiled broccoli, cooked sweet corn, raw carrots, Brussels sprouts, cooked artichoke and fruits such as raspberries, pears, apples, oranges, strawberries and raisins.

Method 2
Relieving Cramps

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    Sit down and rest for a moment. First of all, you must stop whatever are you doing in that moment and sit down; after a few minutes of rest, the cramps should decrease in intensity or even disappear.
    • If the pain lasts longer or they are really intense, call your doctor and tell him or her about your symptoms because it might be a more serious problem.
    • Sometimes it helps to lean a little bit to the side that hurts; this way, you can relax the muscles in that area and reduce the pain you feel.
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    Stretch the affected area. To relieve a cramp in your leg, lie on your back momentarily and then extend the affected leg while keeping the knee straight. Try to position yourself so that the foot is bent backwards until the pain is gone.
    • Another means of stretching the legs is by riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes daily.
    • Brisk walking is also a way of improving circulation in the lower extremities.
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    Take pain medications that are safe for use during pregnancy. You might be tempted to use some medication for treating the pain; it is very important to know that many of the drugs used today, unfortunately, may have severe adverse or teratogenic effects (they can lead to congenital malformations or other abnormalities). Because of this, it is important to check with your doctor before using any over-the-counter medications.
    • Consider taking acetaminophen (the brand name is Tylenol) because it is considered a safe drug to take during pregnancy. The recommended dosage is 325 to 650 mg every 4 to 6 hours (unless stated otherwise by your physician).[4]
    • Another frequently used drug for pain relief is ibuprofen (Nurofen and other trademarks); this must be avoided during pregnancy, especially during the last trimester because it promotes premature closure of a fetal structure called ductus arteriosus (DA).
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    Apply a warm compress to the area with the cramps. You might try to reduce the pain by applying a warm compress to the area where you are experiencing cramps. However, be careful not to keep it against your skin for too long as it may cause nerve damage to your skin. Once you begin to feel relief, remove the warm compress.[5]
    • You can apply the warm compress to the area again if the cramps come back.
    • You can also consider taking a warm bath rather than using a warm compress. The heat will have a soothing effect on your muscles, which can help to calm cramps that you have.

Method 3
Understanding Pregnancy Cramps

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    Understand what constitutes a cramp. Cramps are defined as acute pain for a short period of time; they might appear in both normal and pathological situations. They do not appear in all pregnancies but many of pregnant women experience them.
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    Learn about the main causes of cramps during pregnancy. Cramps that occur in pregnancy are often linked with[6]:
    • Nutrient deficiency, specifically calcium, potassium and magnesium. These essential minerals help your muscles, bones, and nerves to function properly. If you do not have enough of these nutrients, your muscles may cramp up.
    • Prolonged standing. When you stand still for a long time, blood can pool in your lower extremities, causing cramps.
    • Dehydration can also cause cramps. Insufficient amounts of water in the body will result in muscle tightening and painful spasms in order to compensate for the amount of fluid loss.
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    Know when to call your doctor. It is very important to keep in mind that any abdominal cramp during pregnancy must be discussed with your obstetrician or gynecologist , especially if it appears in the late stages of the pregnancy.
    • If you experience an acute, severe pain in your abdomen with possible extension to your groin area, accompanied by weakness, pale skin and a generally altered state you must immediately call the Emergency Services or go to the nearest Emergency Center because you might be having a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.
    • It is also important to seek immediate medical attention if the cramping is accompanied by any vaginal bleeding.


  • Always talk to your doctor before changing your diet, exercise regimen, or medication use.

Article Info

Categories: Pregnancy