If you’ve ever had a conversation about pregnancy with me, you know that it’s not a fond topic of conversation for me. Truth be told, I dislike pregnancy very, very much. I don’t enjoy it. At all. But not for the reasons you may be thinking.
Sure, the weight gain is tough and losing the ability to see your feet isn’t fantastic. Don’t get me started on the trials of trying to shave my legs or roll over in bed. And yes, there’s that whole: “I used to be able to run XX number of miles in XX amount of time and now I can barely run for one minute. It’s like starting over”. All of those are very true but there’s something I deal with on a daily basis that really makes the other aspects of growing a baby seem like not such a bit deal (yes…even the nausea that I get for the first 20 weeks!).
About one third of all women who become pregnant experience a condition known as Restless Leg Syndrome. I am unfortunately among that select group. It’s something that hits me around the 20 week mark and stays with me until the day I give birth. It plagues me every single day and every single night and there isn’t a thing I can do to prevent it. It’s the part of pregnancy I dread the most because it is so disabling in so many ways.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome: Simply put, it’s an overwhelming urge to constantly move your legs. If I don’t move them, I feel like they are going to explode. I’ve also heard it described as a creepy-crawly feeling, tingling, pulling or itching of the legs. It’s very painful but not in the traditional sense of pain. The best way I can describe it in my own life is: excruciating. I have no control over it, can’t stop it and wake up every morning knowing that those symptoms will come back before the day is done. I’ve actually had to stop writing this post several times because I can’t sit still long enough to punch it out and schedule it.
What does Restless Leg Syndrome do to you: The biggest side effect (and what causes the most distress for me), is it keeps me from sleeping. It doesn’t matter how tired/exhausted I am, I cannot sleep when my legs cannot sit still. Rest makes symptoms worse, movement eases them. Unfortunately, I don’t possess the talent of being able to fall asleep the moment my head hits the pillow (unlike my hubby…jerk) and the odd time that I do fall asleep quickly, my legs wake me up. Some days aren’t too bad and I can get about 5-6 hours of fragmented sleep. Most days, it’s more like 3-4 hours and sometimes even less. It’s exhaustion that defies definition. I will spend about half of each pregnancy so sleep deprived, I sometimes just sit and cry. It’s awful and I don’t wish this on anyone during pregnancy.
How do you treat Restless Leg Syndrome?: Well, that’s the tough part. You can’t. The drugs used to help people who suffer from this condition outside of pregnancy (my dad being one of them for a time) aren’t safe to use when pregnant. There are suggestions such as avoiding caffeine, exercising regularly, trying to move around before bed, massage, increasing your iron intake etc. I’ve tried pretty much all of them and unfortunately nothing works for me. It’s simply something I have to deal with for the next few months and once baby is cuddling in my arms, I’ll be much better. The upside is that I’m so sleep deprived leading up to the baby that I’m not overly phased by the lack of sleep once baby arrives.In fact, my quality of sleep is infinitely better. Silver lining?
One thing I’m determined not to do is let this get the better of of me. There are days my energy levels are great and other days when I can barely function. Some days I can do more than others and all I can do is tackle what my energy will allow. Thankfully, for the most part, my workouts aren’t suffering too much and I can try to do something each day. This helps me both physically and mentally because let’s face it, pregnancy is tough for most people so if I can keep doing stuff I enjoy, then I’m a much happier person. Being able to move is so key to my mental well-being, which is why I continue to run as often as I can.
I’ve also learned to recognize that it’s ok to do less on days when I just don’t have the energy. My kids aren’t going to suffer if they “have to” watch a movie now and then, my floors are never that clean anyway and let’s face it, I hate folding laundry. I don’t have to be super mom and if I don’t take care of myself now, I won’t be able to take care of 3 kids later.
I don’t know of anyone else who has had to deal with restless leg syndrome but I’m sure there are many of you. I hope you can navigate your way through it and come out stronger in the end! And if you happen to know any coping methods, please share them! This Mama needs some decent sleep!