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Pregnancy | Natural Leg Cramp Relief
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Pregnant women with leg cramps might get some relief by taking a magnesium supplement.

Natural Leg Cramp Relief

Blood levels of magnesium drop during pregnancy, leaving women at risk for painful muscle cramps. They usually occur in the calves and, because leg cramps tend to occur more at night, some women experience sleep loss, which may in turn put them at higher risk for other complications. Since pregnant women are advised to avoid most medications, what’s to be done for leg cramps? Fortunately, according to Maternal and Child Nutrition, pregnant women with leg cramps might get some relief by taking a magnesium supplement.

Seeking safe cramp relief

Magnesium is a “macromineral,” meaning that our bodies require large amounts of it in the diet in order for our bodies to function properly. Magnesium is involved with bone formation, the activation of B-vitamins, blood pressure regulation, muscle relaxation, blood clotting and insulin production. Some studies have shown that magnesium might help relieve cramps, but not all of the results have been so promising.

A study conducted in Thailand investigated the effect of magnesium on the frequency and severity of leg cramps in 80 healthy pregnant women who experienced cramps at least two times per week. The women were given 300 mg of magnesium (as magnesium bisglycinate) or placebo every day for four weeks. They recorded their symptoms before and after the trial. By the end of the study, leg cramps were:

  • less frequent by one half in 86 percent of the women in the magnesium group compared with 61 percent of the women in the placebo group, and
  • less intense by one half in 70 percent of the women in the magnesium group compared with 49 percent of the women in the placebo group.

There were no significant differences between the groups in terms of side effects, including nausea and diarrhea.

How much magnesium do you need?

Most pregnant women need about 350 mg of magnesium per day. Magnesium supplements seem to be safe for most pregnant women to take, but too much magnesium can cause problems, especially diarrhea.

You’re not likely to overdose on magnesium from dietary sources. Some terrific food sources of magnesium include pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, soybeans, sesame seeds, black beans, sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds.

Talk with your obstetrician about how much magnesium is right for you.

“I usually discuss my patients’ diets with them to assess adequate calcium, magnesium, and potassium intake,” explains Michelle Palmer, a certified nurse midwife in Rhode Island. “I like to ask about what they eat instead of how many milligrams of each nutrient they’re getting or taking as a supplement. If they’re eating oranges, bananas, beans, tahini, green vegetables and dairy regularly, I can be pretty sure that their intake of those minerals is adequate.”

(Matern Child Nutr 2012; DOI:10.1111/j.1740-8709.2012.00440.x)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation’s premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, R.I., where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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