Higher Incidence of Restless Legs Syndrome in Pregnancy Is Not Accounted for by Ethnicity

  • Movement disorders
  • Pregnancy

In a new study published in the online issue of Neurology, 490 individuals were followed during their pregnancies, and 18% of participants experienced restless legs syndrome (RLS) overall, which did not vary significantly among or between Blacks, whites, Hispanics, and those of Asian descent. RLS was most prevalent in women of Asian descent (n=456) and white women (n=709), of whom 21% and 20% had RLS, respectively. In Hispanic (n-774) and Black (n=765) women, the rates of RLS were 17% and 15% respectively. After adjusting for variables of nutrition, previous pregnancies, and other factors however, the differences were not significant.

“Although we found that the incidence of RLS in pregnancy was much higher than in the general population and did, indeed, differ by race and ethnicity, when researchers adjusted for all of the variables such as age, nutritional factors, and number of pregnancies, we saw little difference in risk of RLS in pregnancy between the different groups,” said study author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, of The Pennsylvania State University in University Park, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “This data suggests that the disparity is likely not related to race and ethnicity.”
At the beginning of the study, participants completed a questionnaire on social demographic, clinical and reproductive factors including those that could affect their risk of developing RLS (eg, age, body weight, ethnicity, and previous pregnancies). Participants were asked about any current RLS symptoms at the beginning of the study and at 5 follow-up timepoints throughout their pregnancy. 
“RLS occurs more often in pregnant women than in the general population, and it can be associated with some pregnancy complications and adverse birth outcomes,” said study author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, of The Pennsylvania State University in University Park, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “The percentage of pregnant women with RLS varies greatly by region and country, but few studies have looked at the risk of RLS by race or ethnicity in a multi-racial cohort.”

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