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Training for Baby: Restless legs

Posted July 19, 2011 8:53 p.m. EDT
Updated July 19, 2011 9:22 p.m. EDT

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 WRAL.com. 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.