It was a quiet and peaceful night. I was sleeping on my side to accommodate my expanding belly. The little boy that had been previously kicking inside was still and I was fast asleep in dreamland. Suddenly, without warning, I sprung up to a sitting position, screaming out loud as I clutched my right calf. I howled in pain as the muscle in my leg tightened and twisted in a spasm. This commotion woke my sleeping husband and he jumped to his feet. He looked around the dark room in confusion before yelling out, "What is it?" With my eyes squeezed together tight, trying to endure the pain, I called out the words, "Charlie Horse!" That was my first experience with Charlie Horses during pregnancy.
They became so frequent that eventually as soon as I would sit up in bed, awakened by the pain, my husband would spring into action and begin to rub my calf almost in his sleep. Why this happens is not completely clear but here are some things to prevent or relieve this pain if you are suffering from it.
1. Stretch out your calf muscles prior to going to bed. I made it a habit to do these exercises each night before I retired to slumber.
2. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
3. Avoid crossing your legs while sitting or standing during the day or night.
It may have been the extra weight from the baby that triggered it but I found these leg cramps started around my second trimester and continued until the end. Here is what helped me when the pain hit in the middle of the night. My doctor told me to flex my toes, first by flexing my heal then pointing my toe to lengthen my leg. It seemed to make the cramp subside quicker.
There is some evidence that magnesium may be helpful in preventing this type of muscle cramps. Good sources of magnesium include spinach, soybeans and pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds.
As always, consult your health care provider if you notice swelling or anything that causes you concern. Wishing you the best of luck when your unwanted friend, "Charlie" shows up in the middle of the night.