Pregnancy as a risk factor for restless legs syndrome

Sleep Med. 2004 May;5(3):305-8. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2004.01.013.


Pregnant women have at least two or three times higher risk of experiencing restless legs syndrome (RLS) than the general population. These data come from few epidemiological studies finding an 11-27% prevalence of RLS during pregnancy. Women affected by pre-existing RLS often complain of worsening symptoms during pregnancy. This is usually a benign form of RLS, with the highest degree of severity in the third trimester and a tendency to disappear around delivery. The causes of the association between RLS and pregnancy are unknown. The most debated hypotheses are: metabolic alterations, with particular regard to iron and folate deficiency; hormonal influences related to the increase of prolactin, progesterone and estrogens during late pregnancy; and the changing motor habits and psychological state of pregnant women. The importance of folate and iron supplementation during pregnancy in preventing RLS is unclear. RLS in pregnant women is frequently unrecognized; they are often worried about the symptoms and do not receive an adequate explanation by doctors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / complications
  • Female
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / complications
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Prolactin / metabolism
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / etiology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / metabolism
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Prolactin