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What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome in Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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One of the many complaints of pregnancy includes the onset of restless leg syndrome, which results in tingling and an irresistible urge to move the legs. Doctors are not sure what exactly causes restless leg syndrome in pregnancy, but one of the most likely culprits is a lack of iron. Aside from anemia, some pregnant women may get this issue after eating certain foods, or as a result of being dehydrated. Unfortunately, it cannot usually be aggressively treated during pregnancy since the medications that normally help are off-limits until delivery.

The main symptom of restless leg syndrome in pregnancy is tingling inside the legs and feet, as well as a strong urge to move the legs. Some people also describe the feeling as itching, crawling, aching, or even burning. The feeling usually affects both legs at the same time, and it shows up most often when lying down or sitting for long periods of time. While it can occur at any time of day, it is most often noticed at night, leading to reduced sleep in those suffering from restless leg syndrome.

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Many doctors believe that restless leg syndrome in pregnancy is caused by a deficiency of certain vitamins, such as iron. Many pregnant women develop anemia, especially in the last trimester, which tends to be when restless leg syndrome shows up most often. The anemia appears because the blood volume increases drastically during pregnancy, and the amount of iron in the body usually cannot keep up well enough to maintain the usual ratio. Some doctors also believe that folate deficiency can lead to these odd leg sensations since pregnant women often lack this vitamin as well. Therefore, an increase in iron and folate may be one way to prevent or treat restless leg syndrome in pregnancy, though this does not always solve the problem.

There are other theories on why restless leg syndrome shows up in pregnancy. For example, some sufferers of this condition notice that it gets worse when they consume sugar before bed. Others assume that circulation and dehydration could be to blame, since they notice the problem more when their legs are cold or when they do not drink enough water. Either way, about one in five women develop restless leg syndrome in pregnancy, yet no one is certain about the exact cause. While unfortunately the most effective treatments for this issue are not permitted during pregnancy, the good news is that restless leg syndrome tends to disappear shortly after delivery.

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