Pregnancy can put a lot of stress on your legs. As your belly swells and swells, your legs can bear the brunt of all of that weight. It can leave you in a lot of discomfort and even some pain. Today I’ll cover three common complaints and some suggestions from Yoga and Ayurveda you help you ease your sore legs with pregnancy.
1. Hip Ache
Some people have such loose hips they feel like their legs are just going to fall off; like their joints are really open, and it’s usually worse at night. This is, interestingly, more common in women of Scandinavian descent.
No one exactly knows why this happens, but it’s probably related to your posture during sleep, which is why it’s always worse at night.
Try sleeping on your side with a bolster to lift the knee to hip height, so your leg is going in straight parallel angles to the bed. You can put a thin pillow or even just a folded blanket underneath your tummy, just to help take a little bit of pressure off those ligaments that are stretching to hold your belly.
Stretches for Strenghtening Hips
One thing that can really helps with these loose, open-feeling hips is a yoga posture that can help you strengthen those hip joints a little bit. If you sit with one leg straight and one bent in a half-butterfly position, you push the bent knee to the side and use your hand for resistance. And do the same to push the knee up and use your hand to resist. Push the knee down and push to resist, again. You’re giving your leg something to work against. Have a try at that; you’d have to do it regularly for it to make a difference. It’s not a quick fix.
A word of caution-
In general, if you are going to be doing any yoga (or other exercises), avoid hip opening postures like butterflies. Because of all that lovely relaxing, you’re very loose and you can easily get yourself overstretched and into more pain. Try strengthening those hip sockets, rather than opening them even more.
Give thanks to your body for opening for your baby. Sometimes when we can’t avoid the pain in life (which is often), it can help if we just try and see it in a more positive light. So when you are in pain and your hips and legs feel like they’re going to fall out, then just give thanks to your body for opening for your baby.
2. Calf Cramps
If those baby cows are giving you grief, it’s probably due to Vata. Vata is often high during pregnancy because everything is changing. Your calves may be especially sore at night.
To prevent calf cramps avoid sitting with your legs crossed. Walk a lot, move a lot, wriggle your toes and keep that circulation going. And stretch! You really want to stretch those calves out.
Down Dog is safe to do until 36 weeks, or until you find it uncomfortable. If you find it uncomfortable, you should stop immediately. As always with yoga, be guided by your own comfort and your own body.
Another thing that can help to prevent those calf cramps is drinking lots of water. Calf cramps, and cramps in general, can be due to dehydration. Make sure you’re staying really well hydrated. And sometimes, if water doesn’t feel like enough, you can have some fatty foods as well (like ghee, coconut oil, and maybe some milk).
Ayurveda suggests we avoid fatty foods only in the final weeks of pregnancy, to prevent your baby from gaining too much weight.
Take a bath
Have a warm bath with magnesium, also called epsom salts. Six or so handfuls in a bath full of water (you need to use quite a lot), and this is because salt balances Vata. Cramps can be caused by a magnesium deficiency and this can help. If you want to take a magnesium supplement, I recommend you see an Ayurvedic practitioner; someone who can help you find the right magnesium supplement for you.
Once you have a calf cramp there are a few things you can do to help it as well. One is massage. Give it a good rub, grab it really hard and squeeze it. Just try and do something to rub that out.
You can also put some warm sesame oil on daily, particularly black sesame oil if you can get it (organic). All of my clients of the Newborn Mothers Sanctuary and the Newborn Mothers Retreat will all receive organic, black sesame oil as part of their care. You can use this daily; it penetrates all seven of the tissues, making it super good for getting really deep and helping with those calf cramps (and lots of other problems as well).
You can try using hot packs, cold packs, and a bath can really help too. When you’ve actually got the cramp, it can help to just get straight in the bath.
3. Restless Leg Syndrome
This is one that can drive people absolutely bonkers! It’s an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, and it can keep you awake at night. I had a pregnant friend who said that she slept so much better AFTER her baby was born than during her pregnancy because her RLS was so bad!
No one knows why it happens, except it could be genetic. It’s often worse when you stop moving, and it can cause burning and tingling, and it can feel like your legs are crawling. It can be really, really uncomfortable and drive people a little bit insane.
The most important thing to know about RLS is the drugs that are often prescribed for RLS are not safe during pregnancy, so make sure your see your GP or midwife. You can ask them whilst you’re there about some natural supplements. Iron, magnesium, B12 and folate are all thought to possibly help with RLS. But you have to bear in mind that if you’re taking a prenatal supplement already (a general prenatal vitamin), it probably contains some or a lot of all of these things in it. So just make sure you chat with your GP or midwife to find out what is safe and what’s a good amount to take during pregnancy.
So if you have RLS, it can help to stretch. Stretch those legs out, keep them moving, have a massage, or use a hot or cold pack (a lot of these are the same for all of the leg problems!).
It’s also a really good opportunity to practice your coping techniques for birth. Breathing, meditation, hypnobirthing; whatever coping techniques you’re hoping to use to get through labour. It’s a really good chance to practice them now.
And my last little tip for RLS, and my absolute favorite, is masturbation. Lots and lots of people with RLS have found that oxytocin can really help. Not only because it can stop the RLS temporarily, but it can also put you to sleep. Because one of the main problems with RLS is that you can’t sleep (the insomnia that comes with it), oxytocin works on two levels.
Lots of people use oxytocin nasal sprays; they’ll keep one under their pillow and spray a bit on their pillow when they go to sleep at night. I’m not a huge fan of oxytocin nasal sprays, and they’re not easy to get a hold of. I recommend you masturbate, because oxytocin is released during an orgasm. Easy and fun! Of course you can have sex if you’ve got someone willing.