Restless leg syndrome, also referred to as RLS, is a normal occurrence during pregnancy. Marked by an intense urge to move the legs while at rest due to tingling sensations, RLS affects 10% to 25% of pregnant women [1, 2]. Having unpleasant sensations in the legs could be annoying but it is a temporary condition that goes away after delivery .
Restless leg syndrome symptoms in pregnancy
- Creeping, crawling, burning, or itchy sensations in the feet and legs when you are sitting or sleeping [1, 3, 4]
- In some cases, the tingling sensations are experienced in the thighs, arms, or hands 
- Constant urge to move the legs to get relief from the discomfort 
- Sleep disruption since the sensations in the legs are experienced more at night [3, 5]
- Extreme fatigue due to lack of sleep [1, 2]
What causes restless leg syndrome during pregnancy
The uncomfortable sensations in the legs begin to bother more often when you are 7 or 8 months pregnant . Although experts have not been able to find the exact cause of pregnancy-induced RLS, some believe it to be an inherited condition [3, 6]. If you are already having RLS then it could worsen during pregnancy. The other possible contributing factors are as follows:
- Iron-deficiency anemia 
- Inadequate intake of folate [4, 5]
- Rise in the estrogen levels 
- Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) 
- Dehydration due to its effects on blood circulation [1, 6]
- Intolerance towards certain types of foods 
- Stress 
Pregnancy restless leg syndrome treatment
Although there is no particular cure for restless leg syndrome during pregnancy, bringing few changes to your routine lifestyle can provide temporary relief. Some of these are as follows:
- Stretch your legs before going to bed .
- Mild exercises in the morning or early evening help the muscles of the legs to relax, but you should maintain a long gap between your workout regime and bedtime. Walking around the house is also a good exercise for the legs [2, 5].
- Apply hot or cold packs on your legs for a soothing effect. Soaking the legs in warm or cool water could provide some relief from the unpleasant sensations [1, 2]. You may add some Epsom salt to the water to reduce the discomfort .
- Take a warm (not hot) bath before retiring to bed [3, 4].
- Ask someone to massage your legs before you go to sleep [1, 2].
- Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. In some cases, acupuncture might help in improving the symptoms .
- Place a bar of soap under the bedsheet near your feet before you go to sleep .
- In some cases, having tonic water might help in reducing the symptoms due to the presence of quinine in it. However, do not try out this remedy without consulting your physician .
Note: Although antihistamines such as Benadryl have sleep-inducing effects, these medications can worsen the symptoms of RLS. Seek proper advice from your physician regarding the use of any drug in such cases .
Tips for preventing RLS during pregnancy
- Eat a healthy diet rich in iron including foods like beans, dried fruits, spinach, and chickpeas. If you are suffering from folate deficiency then have broccoli, lentils, eggs, and asparagus [3, 8]. Eating bananas at night is believed to calm the muscles of the legs .
- Keep a track of the foods that give rise to the symptoms of RLS .
- Consider taking an additional iron, folate, magnesium, or vitamin B12 supplements after consulting your doctor .
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol .
- Reduce the intake of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, or cola at it may intensify the symptoms, causing difficulty sleeping [1, 2].
- Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration .
- Make sure you do not lie down or sit for prolonged hours before going to sleep as lack of movement of the legs can trigger RLS, keeping you awake at night . Go to your bed only when you feel sleepy.
- Maintain a proper sleep routine by going to bed and getting up at a fixed time daily [2, 4].
How long does restless leg syndrome last
In most women, the symptoms of RLS resolve within four weeks of delivery . However, if the problem persists even after pregnancy then seek immediate medical help.
Restless leg syndrome ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes
The ICD-9 code for RLS is G25.8  while its ICD-10 code is 333.94 .
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