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Just potassium? Wow!

Dec 10, 2009 - 12 comments
Tags:

potassium

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Pregnancy

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Pain

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cramps

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sleep

,

Heart

,

braxton hicks

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contractions

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leg cramps

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calf muscle pain



For about the last two months, the lovely little pregnancy symptom of leg cramps hit me, and hit me hard. Every morning, I was waking up with aching leg muscles, stiff knees and ankles. And about every 2-3 nights, I was awakened by agonizing cramps in my calf muscles; the muscle would cramp up so immediately and badly that it would be rock hard and feel twisted inside my leg. I hate these cramps. They wake me up in a screaming, teeth clenching fit of blinding pain. When they occur, the rest of my leg muscles in both legs feel extremely ached and fatigued, as if I just walked a 10-story flight of stairs as fast as I could go. So the really bad calf cramps are momentarily paralyzing from the lower back down to my feet.
And obviously, with the sudden rocoiling reaction I get with those cramps, along with the agonizing wail, Brandon would wake up. He's my life-saver, but I do feel badly whenever I wake him from a deep sleep like that, because I know it startles him. But he always immediately tends to the cramped leg and massages the muscle gently until it relaxes from its rock hard state and the pain subsides to a bearable point for me. However, it's always difficult to walk for the next 24 hours because that feeling of running a 10-story flight of stairs doesn't go away.
Another issue I've been having since about the 20th week of pregnancy has been the consistent Braxton Hicks contractions. I would bring this up to my OB at every visit for the last four visits, and I've been checked for dilation and effacement each time, and thankfully, my little guy is staying put with no issues. However, my BH contractions often are in the "concerning level," generally being more than six an hour most days and generally less than 10 minutes apart. Oftentimes, they are not just uncomfortable...they friggin' hurt! Not to mention, they're just plain annoying as well.
Another problem, and this being one I also had with my last pregnancy: heart racing and palpitations occuring with absolutely no extra physical exertion. With my last pregnancy, I contributed the problem to anxiety being the culprit. I had leg cramps, too, but thought nothing about that because they weren't as frequent. I also didn't have the consistent BH contractions with my last pregnancy like I have with this one.
Anyway, my poor husband must've reached his breaking point with the stress of waking up startled and finding me writhing in agony every other night. He mentioned that I probably need some extra potassium, which he'd heard from a co-worker who mentioned to him that that *could* be my problem when Brandon told him (I'm sure it was more like concerned venting) about my cramps depriving him of his sleep, lol. I agreed, but wasn't sure, and really didn't pay much attention to his concern.
Then I came home one night last week, and on the kitchen table I found a brand new bottle of potassium supplements that he'd picked up earlier that day. I will admit that I secretly thought this was ridiculous and I didn't want to take them because I already had my pre-natal vitamins I took each day, and figured those had potassium in them. So I got my bottle of pre-natals and checked the label.
I was astonished to find that my pre-natals have NO potassium! What the heck kind of pre-natals don't have a critical supplement like potassium?! Really...that mineral is basically the main source needed for having healthy muscle function and proper blood flow to the muscles. Maybe it's just my pre-natals, and if it wasn't for having a brand new bottle of them, I'd switch brands. My pre-natals also have no magnesium in them, which I know to be another critical nutrient that would probably be beneficial.
Anyway, I've been taking the potassium supplement for a week now, which is labelled on the bottle as 3% daily value (I forgot how many miligrams worth). After three days of taking it, I have noticed that I have not had a calf cramp in a week, and my leg muscles, knee and ankle joints haven't been anywhere near as sore and stiff when I wake up in the mornings as they used to be a week ago. My heart palpitations are almost non-existent. And, the biggest relief of all that I've noticed is that in the past three days, my BH contractions have subsided to four or less an hour, and extend to being more than 15 minutes apart. The only time they pick up in frequency is when I exert myself too much, like walking fast, for example.
Mainly in the last two days, I have felt so much more relaxed, muscularly speaking, and haven't felt as fatigued. AND...I actually slept like a rock last night!!! I woke up this morning feeling wonderful in every way--something I haven't felt for practically two months now (even Trevor didn't tell me I was being grumpy this morning!).
All this is *possibly* due to getting an extra 3% of my daily value of potassium? If so, I just find that amazing! If this keeps up...I'm a believer, lol!

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203342_tn?1328740807
by April2, Dec 10, 2009
I've noticed that I get leg or feet cramps when I'm low on potassium so I try to add bananas or potatoes to my diet for awhile. :)

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by AHP84, Dec 10, 2009
A lot of people were telling me to eat bananas, but I'm allergic to them. I thought I was getting enough of everything I needed between maintaining a healthy diet (I like to eat baked potatoes, dried fruits, nuts, and dark chocolate--all supposed to be good sources of potassium) and taking my pre-natals, but I guess I was just needing a little extra boost of it.

184674_tn?1360864093
by AHP84, Dec 10, 2009
Lol, I was also wondering why I've had obsessive cravings for potatoes and dark chocolate for the last few months! I have kept a ziplock baggie of semi-sweet chocolate chips in my office desk drawer and whenever I make a baked potato, I thought it was odd that I'd want the potato skin more than anything else.

203342_tn?1328740807
by April2, Dec 10, 2009
See how smart your body is! It was trying to tell you something! Lol. I'm glad you are feeling better. Your hubby was very sweet to think of you and get you the potassium supplements. :)

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by swampcritter, Dec 10, 2009

Bananas are also a good source of potassium -- just don't slip on the peel.


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by spade22, Dec 10, 2009
I just stumbled across this post.

Potassium supplements should ONLY be taken during pregnancy under direction of your doctor.  Also, too much potassium can actually be dangerous (even lethal)!  It is not currently known how much potassium a pregnant women should have and what effects it could have on the fetus (too much, too little) so it should be treated as a Class C medication.  This is likely the reason it is not found in your prenatal vitamins.

Potassium levels are very easy to check with a simple blood test.

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by rdh1981, Dec 10, 2009
I had this problem too and I hate Bananas so I would drink a glass of Gatorade before bed. Most of the time it did the trick!

Wow! Spade, I did not know that!

184674_tn?1360864093
by AHP84, Dec 10, 2009
Spade22, thank you for that info. I will ask my OB about this when at my next appointment, which is on the 15th. I definitely don't want to do anything that will harm my baby, but I also would like to avoid this discomfort if it is possible.

Thanks again!

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by megochick101, Dec 10, 2009
I get those calf cramps all the time, and it is ALWAYS in the middle of the night(of course lol) The best thing i found to make them go away asap is to actually straighten your leg, and then pull and stretch your foot towards you, It'll stretch out your calf muscle, and i won't lie it WILL hurt worse for a second or two, but just keep stretching your foot towards you and then the pain will be gone after that, although it'll still feel a little sore, but not painful. I hope that makes sense, don't bend your leg up towards your body or anything keep it down and only pull the top of your foot to your body, and I swear it'll make the pain go away quickly.

I tried massaging and it, for me, always made it take 15-20mins for the pain to go away, and the stretching works in less than a min usually.

377493_tn?1356505749
by adgal, Dec 10, 2009
Banana's are one of my big cravings...I eat them all the time.  That and kiwi fruit.  And you know, come to think of it, I'm almost 33 weeks and have not had a problem with leg cramps.  Really bad restless leg syndrome, but no real cramps.  Maybe there is something to the potassium thing after all....I really hope that does the trick for you!  

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by ginger899, Dec 10, 2009
Bananas!! full of it....

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by spade22, Dec 11, 2009
Here is a link to a website which lists foods high in potassium:

http://www.vaughns-1-pagers.com/food/potassium-foods.htm

I would definitely eat potassium-rich foods until you see your doctor, rather than the pills, just to be on the safe side.  Lots of healthy options available.

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