Women and Restless Legs

Earlier I wrote about the fact that on average women are more likely to experience restless legs than men.

It is well known that the neurotransmitter dopamine most likely plays a role in RLS. It is much less clear what influence the female hormone system may have on this.

In this blog I will elaborate on this topic. I discuss three areas of life that many women face: menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. I discuss the possible link with RLS.

Period

During early puberty, most girls begin to menstruate. They lose blood for several days each month. From that moment on they are fertile and can in principle have children.

In the female cycle, ovulation (ovulation) is two weeks after menstruation. The body then builds up extra endometrium in case an egg is fertilized.

If fertilization does not take place, the uterus sheds that extra mucous membrane. At that time there is menstruation.

There is a lot of iron in blood. It seems quite plausible to me that the iron level in your body drops during your period. This could be a factor in (extra) playing up restless legs.

Personally, I really notice that my symptoms worsen when I’m menstruating. Some nights I have much more severe pain.

Pregnancy

Many women experience restless legs during pregnancy. It is thought that this could be due to a lack of folic acid.

Symptoms usually start around the third trimester.

When you are pregnant, you need more folic acid than usual. Women are therefore often advised to take extra folic acid from the moment they try to conceive.

It is striking that in most women the restless legs pass after pregnancy. However, some women have complaints from then on. In that case, the pregnancy seems to be a kind of trigger for a chronic form of RLS.

I have never had a pregnancy myself.

Menopause

As a percentage, most women do not develop serious problems with restless legs until after their 40s. That was also the case with me.

I’ve been wondering for a while if the hormonal changes in my body played a role in triggering this.

At this point, the transition is already well advanced for me. The transition is a process that takes years. You are officially in menopause if you have not menstruated for a year.

One woman suffers much more from menopausal symptoms than the other. Hormonally related complaints of this stage of life include irregular bleeding, fatigue, poor sleep, hot flashes, depression and dizziness.

The list is much longer than this. Women probably do not realize in all cases that certain complaints could be part of the menopause. This is also sometimes confused with overstrain or burnout.

Restless legs is one of the slightly lesser-known complaints that often starts in women around the time of menopause.

It seems useful and interesting to me to further investigate the possible interaction between female sex hormones, iron and dopamine.

RLS is an extremely disruptive condition that is most common in women. In my opinion, this perspective deserves more attention.

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