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Training for Baby: Restless legs

Posted July 19, 2011

When I started this blog last year, my goal was to lose some weight before getting pregnant. I had planned to lose at least 10 pounds, but those 10 pounds soon turned into 20 and now I’m at 30 pounds! My trainer suggested I lose a few more pounds, but I want to talk to my OBGYN on the proper weight I should be. I don’t want to be too skinny!

The weight loss was a huge step toward our goal to start a family, but we still have to tackle one more obstacle.

About six years ago, I was diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome and placed on medication that cannot be taken while pregnant. It was always in the back of my mind that I would need to stop taking these pills, but I just figured I’d have a little discomfort in my legs but I’d get over it and just go to sleep.

I lived with RLS for years before my diagnosis and I found a way to sleep most nights. How bad could it be?

I soon found out.

What is RLS?

RLS dates back to the 1400s, where one sufferer referred to it as “hell on earth.” It is estimated that 10 percent of the U.S. population currently suffers from this silly sounding disease.

For me, RLS is the uncontrollable urge to move my legs while trying to sleep. My lower legs feel like they need to be stretched, but no matter how many times I stretch them, it never feels like enough. I also feel this creepy crawly sensation up and down my legs. The symptoms usually kick in 30 minutes after I am in bed. It happens at night and during the afternoon if I try to take a nap.

If I don’t take my medicine, I am up the entire night walking around trying to relieve the symptoms, reading or stretching. If I do get any sleep, it is for 20 minutes or so and then my symptoms kick in again.

Cold turkey

I talked to my general practitioner about going off of my medication – I am currently on Mirapex – when we want to start trying for a baby. She said I could use some home remedies like applying hot and cold compresses, putting a bar of Dove soap under my fitted sheet on the bed, taking a warm bath before bed, but there was no other medication I could take.

After forgetting my Mirapex on a trip to visit my mom back in New Orleans, I tried almost all of these methods (the Dove soap option sounded ridiculous to me!) to no avail. I basically just went without sleep!

When I got home, I started lowering my dosage of Mirapex in an effort to ease myself into dealing with my RLS symptoms again. When I got down to about a fourth of a pill (.0625 mg), I decided to try cold turkey again. That was a long sleepless night!

How was I going to manage my RLS symptoms while we try for a baby and then, hopefully, get pregnant if I can’t get any sleep? RLS is also a common issue in pregnant women, so my symptoms could also worsen. That would be a long nine or more months!

I decided I needed to seek out a specialist to find out if there was anything I could take safely. A search of the RLS Foundation website led me to the folks at Raleigh Neurology Associates, and a doctor who has extensive knowledge of RLS.

My husband and I went last week to see my neurologist and got some great news. He said that there are many different medications used to treat RLS and he knew of some that I could try and continue to use throughout pregnancy! He also suggested a compression device for my legs and even trying out that Dove soap remedy.

The neurologist also set me up with a fetal medicine expert, who will work with me on medications I can take while trying to start a family.

Over the weekend, I tried the Dove soap trick. I think it helped. Not sure how or why, but I’ll take anything at this point.

I believe my RLS is genetic. My dad has it, but he is able to sleep through his constant movements. My mom on the other hand isn’t getting too much rest!

Anyone else out there have RLS? Did anyone develop it while pregnant? How did you treat it?

Kathy is a web producer, entertainment expert and concert photographer for She has written a manuscript about her life as an entertainment reporter and pop culture. Learn more about Kathy on her website. On Wednesdays here on Go Ask Mom, she's chronicling her efforts to lose weight before she and her husband start a family.





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  • candemom Jul 21, 2011

    Did you know that iron deficiency can cause RLS? It took me years and lots of medication trials to figure out that my RLS was caused by low iron, but as soon as my iron levels were back in normal range, the RLS stopped. Pregnant women often experience a dip in iron levels that corresponds with increased RLS symptoms. When I was pregnant with my twins, I nearly went insane with RLS.

    I would check with your doctor before taking iron supplements because too much iron is not a good thing. All it takes is a simple blood test.

    Best of luck.

  • jmjohnson1005 Jul 21, 2011

    RLS runs in my family. My grandpa had it, my mom has it and I have. I don't have it so bad where I need medication, but there are times when it is really hard to get to sleep. Good luck on figuring it all out and getting pregnant. I find that laying on my stomach and hanging my feet off the edge of the bed helps me...but I also know that when you are pregnant you can't do that. That was the hardest thing for me when I was pregnant, not being able to stretch my legs like that.

  • Go_APPS Jul 20, 2011

    so when do we get a new pic of your new self!??!?! congrats on your awesome results. :)

  • JustChimingIn Jul 20, 2011

    Unwrappted bar of soap at the foot of your bed, under the sheet. Old wives tale and I reluctantly tried it. It worked !! You can google it and find that scientists don't know how or why it works, but it does. I have a bar in my travel bag too.

  • ProudBlackSingleMother Jul 20, 2011

    Losing weight is a great way to get pregnant as it will be easier to find a gentleman caller who will get you pregnant if you are skinny and attractive.

  • kalandyt Jul 19, 2011

    I would suggest Chiropractor therapy. We see Gray family Chiro in Raleigh and love them. My daughter has RLS and as long as we see Dr. Davis there is no problem. Also with pregnancy seeing a Chiropractor is so beneficial. And it is drug free natural treatment. I hope you consider and it does work. Good luck to you and your journey.

  • lilypony Jul 19, 2011

    I had problems with it while pregnant as well as a side effect of a medication I take while my body was adjusting to it. The med side effect, there was nothing I could do about it. But during pregnancy my OB suggested taking a magnesium supplement which worked wonders. I was still fidgety while trying to fall asleep but once I finally relaxed legs relaxed too. Last month or so of each pregnancy it got a lot worse and OB then suggested taking a benadryl before bed along with the magnesium which helped. I guess not really helped, but rather put me to sleep so I couldn't get worked up about it!

  • bcmom Jul 19, 2011

    Hi Kathy - I have 3 children, and with each of them I'm pretty sure I had RLS , especially towards the end of my pregnancy. I spent many evenings walking laps around the house just trying to relieve the symptoms. For me, it wasn't every night...but maybe every other night and some during the day. I'm sure you've tried hot showers, massages, etc... but I did sleep with these compression tights (not full but up to mid thigh), you can buy at a pharmacy (the one on Blue Ridge by Rex sells them...but they are ~ $50 or so). They were a true pain to put on when you're 7+ months pregnant but worth it to get some better rest & have more energy during the day. I did the advil trick too, and that seemed to help me relax.

  • lsmith4272001 Jul 19, 2011

    Hi Kathy!
    I developed a mild case, if there is such a thing, when I was pregnant with my first child and still suffer with it off and on today, 11 years later. I usually take advil or tylenol; advil seems to work the best. I have also tried melatonin to help me sleep with some success. Good luck to you!