Many people suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS) without being pregnant, but since the 1940’s, RLS has been linked to pregnancy before women are twice as likely to suffer from the condition when they become pregnant. My grandma suffered from RLS for about five years and she said that it could keep her up all night. Some words people have used to describe the feeling of RLS have included prickling, tingling, itching, pulling, drawing, and crawling.

The most baffling thing is that doctors don’t really know why pregnant women are more likely to experience restless leg syndrome. The best hypothesis so far has been a folate or iron deficiency, hormonal influences related to the increase of prolactin, progesterone, and estrogens during late pregnancy, and the changing motor habits and psychological state of pregnant women. Researchers and doctors have started to lean more towards iron deficiency and hormonal imbalances, but there are no conclusive results. 

RLS also tends to disappear after giving birth for most women who have been affected by the symptoms. A study done in Italy with 600 women show that only 7% of women still suffered a month after giving birth. In the study, it was also revealed that the worst symptoms occurred during the third trimester, especially during the seventh and eighth month. This has led the researchers in the September issue of the journal Neurology to suspect that the cause of RLS may be more related to hormonal imbalances than an iron deficiency. Also, women lose a lot of blood and iron when they give birth, and if the restless leg syndrome were caused by an iron deficiency it would only be natural for the symptoms to get worse, not better.

All of this information is well and good, but what if you’re one of those women experiencing restless leg syndrome right now? Are you supposed to just wait it out and be exhausted during the day? Well, there are a few things you can do to help relieve the symptoms and get a good night’s sleep. Many women find that hot and cold compresses, as well as regular massages help, particularly right before bed. Also, try not to lie in bed before you actually want to sleep. That means no reading or watching T.V. lying down. The longer you lie still, the more likely you are to experience the unpleasant sensations of RLS.

 

  • Manconi, M., Govoni, V., Vito, A. D., Economou, N. T., Cesnik, E., Mollica, G., et al. (2004). Pregnancy as a risk factor for restless legs syndrome. Sleep Medicine, 5(3), 305–308.
  • Hitti, M. (2004, September 27). Pregnancy: risk for restless leg syndrome. WebMD.