Why Pregnancy Can Make You Want to Run a Marathon

Megan Van Schaick

restless leg syndromeYou’ve made it through another day at work: balancing your new belly (mostly) gracefully, handling the stress and hormonal crying jags, balancing on a kick-ass pair of heels that make your gams look like Betty Grable’s.

Now it’s time to unwind with comfy jammies, your allotted glass of wine, and some trashy TV. Reclining on the sofa never felt so good!

Until ... that weird tingly feeling starts -- you know, where it kind of feels like bugs are crawling underneath your skin. It begins in your calves and creeps up to your thighs. The feeling gets worse and you say a wistful goodbye to relaxation. Restless leg syndrome sure knows how to ruin a night, huh?

RLS is an affliction of Biblical proportions to those who have to deal with it regularly. The sensation alone drives you crazy, but what’s worse is the drive to move, like run a whole marathon, because that’s often the only thing that relieves the creepy crawlies. Well, that and the fact that your doctor can’t explain why you’ve suddenly developed this weird symptom -- except that maybe it could be iron or folate deficiencies or circulation problems or hormones.

What do you do?


  • Exercise. Not just walking around at work either -- go for a good long walk (at least 30 minutes) and take a prenatal yoga class. Try to fit it in at night, if possible, to ward off the tinglies.
  • Get a massage. The perfect excuse! Go pro or just get your partner to massage your legs -- the muscle manipulation can help alleviate RLS.
  • Relax. Finding a good relaxation technique can make a big difference. Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing are all worth trying.
  • Go thermal. Soaking in a hot tub, heating pads, and hot showers can all help. Conversely, some women get relief with cold therapy -- dunk your feet in cold water at the start of an episode and see if it helps.
  • Distract yourself. Whatever you need to do -- read, crafts, play a game. Getting your mind off the sensations won’t make them go away, but you’ll feel a whole lot better.
  • Talk to your doctor. You need to rule out any potentially serious problems, and she might be able to give you some advice about supplements or other helpful therapies.


  • Take medications. Most meds aren’t okay during pregnancy, and ones that you think might relax you (Benedryl, for example) will only make the symptoms worse.
  • Consume caffeine. You know it’s good to avoid anyway, but if you have RLS, avoiding all caffeine can help -- this means coffee, tea, and soda.
  • Smoke. Hopefully you aren’t anyway, but if you are, even just one teensy puff, quit. It can make your symptoms worse.

Do you have RLS? How do you deal?


Image via Allan Siew/Flickr

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