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Why did my legs hurt during labor?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I gave birth to my youngest child almost three years ago. Her birth was bizarre in every sense of the word. It was a long labor, but with very difficult contractions almost all of the way through unlike some long labors which start out easy and gradually build up. I also had reversal of dilation and two transitions. It took a really long time (about 6 to 8 hours) to go from complete dilation to having any urge to push.

One really weird thing is that toward the end ( about 7 hours prior to birth) of labor my legs started cramping up. It seemed to happen when I contracted and sometimes it was so bad it actually overwhelmed the contractions' pain. The pain was prolific. I do not really know how to describe it- perhaps a muscle cramp but I've never had a muscle cramp so I'm not sure. The pain was concentrated in my thighs mainly on the sides but also along the front and backs of them and in my calves.

Does anyone have any ideas about why this happened to me?
post #2 of 15
Well I really don't know, but I'm wondering if the cramps were caused by the same things that would come up for a distance athlete--say a marathon runner. It's common for the body to lose lots of liquid and salt from sweating when doing an endurance event, so if you were in labor for a long time and weren't getting electrolytes and liquids replaced regularly, you might cramp. Here is an article that talks more about sodium depletion as it relates to running, but the ideas would pertain to childbirth as well, I'd imagine.
post #3 of 15
Were you eating or drinking during early labor? If you did stay hydrated or didn't have "fuel" maybe it was a muscle response to that.
post #4 of 15
I had the same thing happen with both of my labours. I knew I was close to pushing then. I had my dh squeeze my thighs to counteract the pain in my legs. I made sure to drink and eat during my labour too. In fact, my dh was holding my drink to my mouth during transition

*TMI ALERT*

It has also happened when I was constipated, and was pushing for awhile Not sure why it happens, but I doubt sodium had anything to do with it that time
post #5 of 15
Anything that made me tense up made my legs hurt. I had no leg pain through the entire labour until it came time to push and they'd say, "grab your legs behind your knees, pull them back, and push."

I'd tense up, getting ready to push, grab my legs and - oy, cramp.

I was super mellow and relaxed but pushing was a bugger because I had trouble doing it the way they wanted me to (but tried not to make trouble because i'm apparently VERY nice and accommodating during labour) so I tried to do it half-way to avoid the cramps... eh, not so fun.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Very interesting. People kept trying to get me to eat and drink more, but I was kind of stubborn and didn't feel like it. I will have to keep that in mind for next time.
post #7 of 15
Is it possible that the pain along the back was sciatic pain and that your response was tension, causing the pain elsewhere in your legs?

The only pain I remember from childbirth was sciatica. It was intense and shot down to my toes with each contraction. I'm actually trying to figure out if there's *anything* I can do to prevent it next time around. I think I might try spending a few years on core workouts.
post #8 of 15
In my doula training and my prenatal massage training we are told that the thigh area is a place to pay attention to. Alot of women experience pain in their legs no matter how long or short their labors are. I imagine its due to exertion-you are working quite hard as well as deyhdration. Our muscles tend to cramp up when we aren't drinking enough so that could have played a part as well. Believe me though-its really common!
post #9 of 15
ina mae specifically addresses thigh-relaxation as a way to relax laboring moms in her guide to childbirth. she talks about some traditional cultures shaking mamas' thighs vigourously to help them stay loose and open.

i could totally see that a long labor especially would result in long over-tightening of thigh muscles and just plain ol' muscle fatigue. also, a friend who had pit-induction experienced severe thigh shaking -- and she was VERY tense her whole labor (until her epidural )
post #10 of 15
In my first labor, my thighs would tense up during contractions and I absolutely could not stop it! It was as if the contraction wasn't only in my uterus but in my thighs too. I tried to focus on relaxing them but it was impossible. Dehydration is a possibility there because it was a super crazy long labor and I don't think I drank much.

The 2nd, much shorter labor (15 hours vs 49 or so) I was amazed that even in transition, if I did find myself tensing my legs I was able to focus and tell myself to relax them, and be able to! But during pushing, oh my!!! My thighs cramped horribly. And I did drink quite a bit through the whole labor. It was my inner thigh and interestingly, when I had bh toward the end of pregnancy, I would get that same kind of crampy feeling! It was just intensified during pushing :/ My leg muscles are REALLY tight. If I sit on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me, its not a "stretching feeling" its PAIN. I literally can't sit at a 90* angle with my legs straight. I have to lean back some. My muscles are THAT tight. I sort of wondered if that had anything to do with it.
post #11 of 15
I usually see moms report thigh pain in transition when the head is low. Some moms feel their contractions in their back, some in the abdomen and some in the thighs. In my opinion it is because of the way the baby is presenting in the pelvis. It is a different pain than thigh cramps because your legs are being heldback in pushing, this pain I usually see at 7-8 cm when there is rapid progress and rapid decent of the baby.
post #12 of 15
sounds like dehydration to me. I've also heard of labor pains being felt in the legs as well.
post #13 of 15
I had horrible pain that shot down my legs in my first labor. It turned out my baby was posterior and with the way she was laying it was pressing on something in my body/back that made that pain shoot down me. With my fourth labor, I had pain that started to shoot down my legs again. THis baby was to be a home birth and i knew from before that i did not want anything in the way of that. I went to the chiropractor in labor and he knew just what it was and adjusted me and it went away.

I have also experienced my jaw locking up in pregnancy and a holistic doctor told me it was magnesium deficiency. Made sense to me, because when i forgot to take the magnesium a few days my leg kept giving out, which eventually led me to fall down the stairs and sprain my ankle. He said muscles that lack magnesium can do that.
post #14 of 15
I've had a couple of clients with this and we never figured it out (one was not eating but the other one was - I never thought of that as a cause). They both were in the hospital and got epidurals because of it. For one, the epidural didn't help the pain and for the other, it did. We were all thinking muscle cramp.
post #15 of 15
I had a terrible, awful, leg "cramp" towards the end of transition with my second child- it ran all the way down my leg starting at the outside of my hip. If I switched my weight to the other side, *that* leg started to hurt.

My personal theory is that the baby's head moving down through my pelvis pinched a nerve somehow.
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