Pregnancy and Restless Legs Syndrome

Pregnancy

Many research studies conducted suggest that “RLS” or “restless legs syndrome” occurs in women one and half to two times more often than it occurs in men and that  pregnancy  is a risk factor for developing restless legs syndrome as many women who have been diagnosed with RLS experienced their symptoms for the first time during  pregnancy .

While the symptoms of RLS can interfere with sleep and include uncomfortable and painful sensations that can be controlled with certain medications, the majority of these medications are not recommended to be taken during  pregnancy .

The Association of the Steroid Hormone Estradiol during  Pregnancy  and RLS

Clinical studies conducted showed that women in their third trimester of  pregnancy  who had RLS had a significantly higher level of estradiol which is an estrogenic steroid hormone than pregnant women who did not have RLS and that the levels of other types of hormones were about the same in pregnant women with or without RLS.

The symptoms of RLS also seem to be worse during  pregnancy  in many women and often decrease significantly after giving birth or disappear altogether. These studies also found that the risk factor for developing RLS seemed to increase with the number of  pregnancies .

Strategies for Coping with RLS during  Pregnancy 

While the medications typically given to treat restless legs syndrome are not recommended to be taken during  pregnancy , there are several other ways that may help in reducing the symptoms while you are pregnant.

Moderate exercise such as brisk walking has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of RLS in many patients; however, this should be avoided to close to bedtime as this has the potential to increase the symptoms associated with RLS in some individuals. Stimulants such as beverages containing caffeine and alcohol should be avoided – particularly in the evening – as these can cause the symptoms of RLS to become worse.

If you experience the symptoms of restless legs syndrome during  pregnancy , try using heat or cold therapy such as taking a warm bath, soaking your feet in warm water, applying a heating pad, or cold compresses to your legs.

Movement such as walking in place or pacing can also help to alleviate the symptoms of PLS as well as stretching or massaging the leg muscles. Many individuals with RLS have also found meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques to be beneficial in treating their symptoms of RLS.

Ruling out other causes of Restless Legs Syndrome during  Pregnancy 

While the increase of the symptoms of restless legs syndrome in pregnant women is thought to be closely associated with the changes in hormone levels, other underlying medical conditions that can cause the symptoms normally associated with RLS should be ruled out.

These include a low level of iron, anemia, and diabetes; therefore, if you are pregnant and are experiencing severe symptoms associated with RLS, it is important that you discuss these issues with your health care provider in order to rule out other potential causes of these symptoms and to receive the proper form of treatment.