The period of waiting for the child is, albeit pleasant, not the easiest time for a woman. Anxiety for the state of the baby and her own health, changes in appetite, toxicosis, heartburn – these are frequent companions of pregnancy, often causing deterioration of well-being and sleep in the future mother. Not so rare and yet another reason for complaints is the so-called restless leg syndrome pregnancy (RLS).
During pregnancy, up to 20% of all future mothers suffer from this pathology. Not all women go to the doctor, considering restless leg syndrome pregnancy a natural consequence of the changing hormonal background. Is it possible in this situation to go without a specialist’s help?
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
From the standpoint of modern medicine, the RLS has a rather long and capacious definition. In short, it can be referred to as a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the lower extremities that arise at night or in the evening when a person is having rest.
This pathology is classified as a sleep disorder and can occur throughout life in people of both sexes. At the same time, it is most active in women during pregnancy.
Classification of Restless Leg Syndrome
There are 2 forms of the disease: primary and secondary. Primary (idiopathic) arises most often. Symptomatic (secondary) develops closer to retirement due to disorders occurring in the body – these can be problems of the nervous and vascular systems.
Primary Form – Idiopathic
This form has not been fully investigated. It usually occurs in people under the age of 30. It is impossible to fully treat it. The condition is characterized by an increase and decrease of symptoms that may not disappear for a long time. Primary form of restless leg syndrome manifests itself spontaneously. But it is not known exactly what causes the condition. However, medical specialists distinguish the following possible causes:
- genetic predisposition;
- disorders in the activity of the nervous system;
- mental manifestations: stressful situations, depressive states, overwork.
The absolute majority is of the opinion that the primary form of the disease is formed due to external factors and heredity.
Secondary Form – Symptomatic
The symptomatic form of the disease progression arises as a result of the development of neurological pathology. It is necessary to treat it with the help of complex therapy.
Such a variety of the disease includes the following manifestations:
- anemia due to lack of iron;
- disorders of the endocrine system, elevated blood sugar values;
- excessive use of alcohol, tobacco products, coffee;
- kidney and spine disease;
- deficiency of vitamins and magnesium;
- use of certain medicines.
The characteristic symptoms occur during pregnancy. About 16% of women live with this disease. The disease is dangerous for pregnant women because the syndrome can be transmitted from the mother to the child. In this case, the threat of miscarriage increases.
Restless Leg Syndrome and Pregnancy: Symptoms
The symptomatology of restless leg syndrome pregnancy is characterized by four main factors:
- The need to constantly move your legs.
- General excitement.
- Strengthening of the first symptom during a night’s sleep or in the first hours of sleep.
- Anxiety in the legs when they are in a calm position (it is enough just to sit or lie down so that the symptom becomes aggravated).
The consequences of this physical condition are a loss of rest, deterioration in the quality of sleep and rest, as a person is forced to wake up several times a night due to the constant sensation of movement in the legs. This is absolutely unacceptable for a future mother. She, on the contrary, needs peace and a quality, long sleep. Such restless nights result in constant fatigue and general nervousness throughout the day.
In addition to the hereditary factor, during pregnancy, the causes of exacerbation of the syndrome are hormonal flux and a lack of iron. In the latter case, of course, you can start taking vitamins with high iron content. But this should not harm the fetus.
How Does this Disease Manifest Itself?
In the evening or during sleep, the pregnant woman has unpleasant sensations in the legs in the form of stretching, tingling, burning, trembling, and a feeling of crawling. Sometimes there are pain and cramps in the legs. Sensations can be localized in the area of the feet, lower parts of the legs or thighs. These feelings come like waves approximately every 15 – 30 seconds. Symptoms cause an irresistible desire to constantly move your legs. When moving, rubbing feet or walking, the symptoms noticeably decrease or completely disappear.
Symptoms of restless legs syndrome usually appear in the interval from 18 pm to 4 am, and spontaneously disappear by the morning. During sleep, people with RLS have periodic (every 15 – 40 seconds) twitching of the lower limbs.
As you might guess, the symptoms of restless leg syndrome pregnancy make it very difficult to sleep. Feet movements during sleep often awaken women. For this reason, patients with restless leg syndrome often complain of sleeplessness at night and drowsiness during the day.
In pregnant women, this syndrome can both flow in a mild form, without a particularly negative effect on sleep and well-being in general, and be very pronounced.
Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome
In most cases, restless legs syndrome occurs against a background of relative health without any previous diseases (primary RLS). In some women, the first symptoms of pathology make themselves felt long before the onset of pregnancy. There are cases of hereditary transmission of the disease. The exact cause of primary RLS is usually not clear.
During pregnancy, restless legs syndrome occurs against the background of significant rearrangements of the hormonal background. The following conditions can provoke the disease in future mothers:
- iron-deficiency anemia;
- lack of magnesium and calcium;
- fast weight gain;
- swelling of the legs;
- taking certain medications.
Secondary restless legs syndrome occurs against a background of various diseases. The following conditions deserve a special attention in pregnant women:
- varicose veins of lower extremities;
- thyroid disease;
- chronic lung diseases;
- kidney damage;
- rheumatoid arthritis;
Secondary RLS is diagnosed in combination with other diseases. To find out the exact cause of the problem a woman should be examined by a specialist.
Consequences of Restless Leg Syndrome Pregnancy for the Mother and the Fetus
Restless leg syndrome pregnancy is not dangerous for the baby. With this pathology, the woman’s health suffers, but nothing puts a threat for the fetus. Another thing is that RLS may be one of the manifestations of a serious disease, including varicose veins or metabolic disorders. That is why it makes sense to consult a doctor when there are unpleasant sensations in the legs. It is important to exclude a dangerous pathology that masquerades as a restless leg syndrome.
Restless leg syndrome pregnancy, which persists for a long time, inevitably leads to insomnia. Future mothers cannot fall asleep for a long time, tossing from side to side and trying to find a comfortable position for the legs. At night, women often have to wake up to ease restless limbs. All this provokes the development of depression, apathy and does not contribute to the well-being of a pregnant woman.
There is Also Another Opinion
In the early pregnancy, there is usually no RLS. Manifestations are observed later. Since there are 2 forms of the disease, the consequences are different.
With idiopathic RLS transmission of the syndrome to the fetus is possible. This can lead to miscarriage. Because of mental disorders, there are bursts of aggression and inadequate conditions in which the life of a child is at risk.
With a symptomatic form of the syndrome, problems in the development of a born baby are possible. For example, lack of weight, pallor (due to a deficiency of vitamins), and lag in development.
At the stage of pregnancy planning, it is recommended to make adjustments to nutrition and lifestyle. If RLS was manifested for other reasons, then doctors advise to be examined.
Diagnostics of Restless Leg Syndrome Pregnancy
Restless legs syndrome usually occurs in the second trimester of pregnancy. By this time, the future mother already has time to undergo all necessary examinations. Thus, the gynecologist has an idea of the state of health of the patient. Possessing such information, the doctor can distinguish idiopathic (primary) RLS from a pathology that arose on the background of serious diseases. At any doubts the doctor can appoint additional examination.
Manifestations of Restless Leg Syndrome Pregnancy:
- an irresistible desire to move the lower limbs;
- the appearance of paresthesia;
- symptoms increase at night during sleep;
- the condition improves while moving.
What to Do? Useful Tips for Relief
During pregnancy in the treatment of restless legs syndrome, much attention is paid to non-drug methods. Doctors recommend all future mothers to follow the mentioned above rules:
- Do not forget about moderate physical activity during the day.
- Prepare for sleep in advance. Try to eliminate all possible irritants an hour before falling asleep. Turn off the phone and computer, mute the light, and air the room.
- Before going to bed, take a contrast shower or a warm foot bath. It will calm your feet and make it easier to fall asleep.
- Do a light foot massage before going to bed.
- Don’t drink tea, coffee and cocoa in the evening.
- Do not drink alcohol.
- Use foot pillows and any improvised accessories for a comfortable sleep.
Drug therapy during pregnancy is practically not prescribed. With severe restless legs accompanied by constant insomnia, the doctor can prescribe sedatives (valerian, motherwort). More serious medications are used only after the prescription of the neurologist.
With secondary RLS it is necessary to achieve correction of the underlying disease. Replenishment of iron, calcium and magnesium deficiency, wearing compression underwear with varicose veins and other measures help to cope with the problem in the shortest possible time. In the case of endocrine disorders, hormonal drugs are prescribed.
Taking any medications with restless leg syndrome pregnancy is allowed only after consulting a doctor. Independent use of drugs can adversely affect the course of pregnancy and lead to serious violations in the development of the fetus.