Common symptoms in mid-pregnancy

by Kaiser Permanente |
Happy family.

It’s common in your second trimester to feel backaches and leg cramps, as well as discomfort from varicose veins. Learning more about what you can do to treat and prevent these symptoms can help you manage your pain and feel better.


As your uterus grows, it puts more strain on your back. This might lead to poor posture and feelings of pain.

It’s a good idea to look for ways to protect your back throughout your day. Try these tips to prevent poor posture and unnecessary back strain:

  • Avoid standing with your belly pushed forward and your back arched too much. Instead, try to keep your ears, shoulders and hips in a straight line when standing.
  • Wear supportive, low-heeled shoes or a pregnancy support belt
  • Avoid heavy lifting. Lift only by raising from a squat, keeping your waist and back straight.
  • Avoid stretching to reach something, such as on a high shelf or across a table
  • Place a back support or pillow against your lower back when you sit
  • Rest a foot on a small stool, box, or other object when you stand
  • Sleep on a firm mattress — plywood under a mattress helps. Lie on your side, with a pillow between your knees.
  • Stay active

For many, simple stretching and strengthening exercises help relieve backaches. A warm bath, a massage, or applying heat and cold to your back can also help relieve pain and tension. You could even try giving yourself a massage by rolling a tennis ball over tight areas. Try different treatments and see what works best for you.

Leg cramps

Many people experience leg cramps or spasms during pregnancy, especially at night. Most often, they result from the increased pressure your growing uterus puts on the blood vessels and nerves in your legs. You might also experience leg cramps if you don’t get enough calcium, or if there’s too much phosphorus, a type of mineral, in the foods you eat.

If you have leg cramps, try the following tips for relief:

  • During a leg cramp, flex your toes towards your head and gently massage the affected muscle.
  • Take deep breaths and try to relax your body.
  • If pain or tenderness persists, a heating pad, hot water bottle or a warm bath may bring relief.
  • As the tension eases, try to straighten your leg as you flex your toes upwards.
  • When you're able, stand up and walk around.
  • Stretch by sitting on a firm bed or chair, then straightening your legs and flexing your feet slowly toward your knees.
  • You can also stretch by lifting your toes and standing on your heels, even when walking.

It’s also possible to prevent leg cramps. Be sure to:

  • Avoid too much phosphorus in the foods you eat. Phosphorus is found in carbonated beverages, lunch meat, and other packaged, highly processed foods.
  • Eat more foods with calcium in them, especially if you have leg cramps more than twice a week. You can also take calcium supplements that don’t contain phosphorus. Calcium-rich foods include almonds, green leafy vegetables like spinach or kale, low-fat or nonfat milk products, and fortified cereals or oatmeal
  • Exercise daily
  • Stretch your legs before bedtime
  • Take a warm (not hot) bath before bedtime

Varicose veins

These enlarged, swollen veins are also common in late pregnancy, especially if you have a family history. Most varicose veins shrink or disappear after birth.

Varicose veins form as your growing uterus puts more pressure on blood vessels in your legs, which can interfere with normal blood flow. Your calves may ache or throb, even when you can’t see the veins.

Here are some ways to avoid varicose veins and help treat them if they occur:

  • Avoid tight pants or stockings, which can interfere with blood circulation
  • Don’t sit or stand for long periods of time, and don’t cross your legs when you sit down
  • Elevate your legs when sitting or lying down
  • Exercise regularly. Try walking for at least 30 minutes on most days
  • Lie on your side instead of your stomach or back
  • Wear support hose or compression stockings

As with any symptom, you should contact your doctor if pain becomes severe or interferes with your daily routine.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.