Restless-legs syndrome, in which discomfort in the legs makes you really, really want to move them NOW, can be so bad that it interferes with sleep. Estimated to afflict millions of Americans, the syndrome is thought to be particularly common during pregnancy. Researchers in Italy wondered just how common it is among pregnant women.
What the researchers wanted to know: Are women likely to have restless-legs syndrome during pregnancy?
What they did: The researchers asked 642 consecutive pregnant women who came to see the ob/gyns at Ferrara University in northern Italy whether they'd like to participate; 626 agreed. A neurologist interviewed each woman within two days after giving birth, asking about health, pregnancy, and any symptoms of restless legs syndrome. The same interviewer checked up on the women by phone one, three, and six months later.
What they found: Over a quarter of the women had restless-legs syndrome during pregnancy; most hadn't had it before. That's a much higher rate than in the general population. Some people speculate that having an iron or folate deficiency can cause restless-legs syndrome, but the researchers looked at who was taking folate and iron and found no difference between the restless legs women and the women who didn't have any trouble. (On the other hand, just because you're taking iron pills doesn't mean you're absorbing it, or that it's enough to make up for your deficiency.) The authors speculate that, instead of iron, restless legs syndrome could somehow be triggered by the normal hormone changes during pregnancy.
What the study means to you: Pregnancy seems to make you more likely to develop restless-legs syndrome. The good news is that, one month after pregnancy, the syndrome was gone in almost 95 percent of the women. Good thing, because with a 1-month-old, they probably need their sleep.
Caveats: Women weren't studied during pregnancy, just asked about their symptoms later.
Find out more: Information about restless legs from a website full of information on movement disorders.
Read the article: Manconi, M., et al. "Restless Legs Syndrome and Pregnancy." Neurology. Sept. 28, 2004, Vol. 63, pp. 1065-1069.
Abstract online: http://www.neurology.org