How can I prevent nighttime leg cramps during pregnancy?

Q: I'm in my seventh month and get severe leg cramps that wake me up at night. What can I do to alleviate or even prevent them?

A: These painful cramps, which typically occur in the calf muscle, often increase in frequency and severity during the last trimester, when extra body weight can affect circulation in your legs, explains Connie L. Agnew, M.D., a perinatologist at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. When a cramp occurs, stretch your leg out with your heel extended and then gently pull (or have your partner push) your toes toward your body, she suggests. (Do not point your toes!) This will probably be painful at first, but it will help alleviate the cramp. Lying on your side and using pillows to support your legs might also provide some relief, Agnew adds. Dehydration may contribute to muscle cramps, so try to drink eight to 10 glasses of water every day.