Swelling During Pregnancy
Swelling during pregnancy is caused by your body holding more water than usual when you’re pregnant. Throughout the day the extra water tends to gather in the lowest parts of the body, especially if the weather is hot or you have been standing a lot.
It’s normal to get some swelling in pregnancy, particularly in your legs, ankles, feet and fingers. It’s often worse at the end of the day and further into your pregnancy. Swelling that comes on gradually is not usually harmful to you or your baby, but it can be uncomfortable.
Why do women have swelling during pregnancy?
There are 3 main reasons women experience swelling while pregnant.
• Throughout pregnancy, you produce more blood than usual to help your baby grow.
• As the baby grows, your uterus presses on and slightly blocks the veins that return blood from your legs to your heart.
• Your hormones make the walls of your veins softer, which makes it harder for them to work properly.
For these reasons, your blood tends to pool in your legs. There, a small amount of blood leaks through tiny blood vessels into the tissues and produces the swelling you can see and feel.
Where and when will swelling occur?
The swelling should be only in your feet and ankles. Your fingers might get a little larger — enough to make any rings feel tight — but they shouldn’t be obviously swollen.
Your feet and ankles are likely to swell later in the day. This is mainly due to gravity — any extra fluid in your body will sink to your feet and ankles, especially if you spend a lot of time on your feet.
Swelling is also more likely to happen later in your pregnancy.
Gradual swelling isn’t harmful to you or your baby, but it can feel uncomfortable.
How to get relief swelling during pregnancy?
While swollen feet may or may not be painful, they can certainly be uncomfortable or bothersome.
▪︎ Reduce sodium intake
One way to reduce swelling during pregnancy is to limit your sodium (or salt) intake. Salt makes your body hold on to extra water.
Try to avoid canned or processed foods, as these are especially high in sodium. Also try not to put extra table salt on your food.
▪︎ Increase potassium intake
Not getting enough potassium can also make swelling worse, as potassium helps your body balance the amount of fluids it holds onto.
Some foods that are naturally high in potassium include:
• potatoes with the skin on
• sweet potatoes (also with the skin)
• beans, some fruit juices (prune, pomegranate, orange, carrot, and passionfruit in particular)
▪︎ Reduce caffeine intake
While occasional caffeine during pregnancy isn’t harmful (and hey, a girl’s gotta stay awake!), drinking too much caffeine isn’t considered great for baby. It can also make swelling worse.
Caffeine is a diuretic, which causes you to pee more, which then makes your body think it needs to hold on to fluid.
Try a decaf coffee with milk or an herbal tea such as peppermint to help give you a little energy boost instead.
▪︎ Drink more water
As strange as it sounds to drink more water to counteract swelling, it actually works. If your body thinks you’re dehydrated, it will hold on to even more fluid to try to compensate.
So try to drink at least 10 glasses of water every day to keep your kidneys flushing out the bad stuff and your body happily hydrated. You can also flavor your water with lemon, mint, or berries to make it more enjoyable.
▪︎ Elevate your feet and rest
While sitting all the time isn’t great for your circulation, standing all the time is also hard on your beautiful pregnant body.
Sitting with your feet elevated for a little while — especially at the end of the day — can help drain the fluid that’s been pooling in your legs over the course of the day.
▪︎ Wear loose and comfortable clothing
Try to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes — or at least avoid tight elastic bands. Maternity maxi dresses in the summer and flowy cardigans or sweaters with joggers in the winter can be both cute and comfortable.
▪︎ Wear waist-high compression stockings
If you’re experiencing persistently swollen feet, or have to be on your feet most of the time, you can wear waist-high compression stockings.
These stockings gently squeeze your feet and legs to help keep fluid circulating. Try to avoid the knee-high compression stockings, as they may be too tight in the middle of your leg and actually make swelling worse.
Going for even a 5- or 10-minute walk a couple times a day can help improve your circulation, which helps reduce swelling.
This can also be a good break in your day, and it’s a great way to get pregnancy-safe exercise.
▪︎ Wear comfortable shoes
While you may look adorable in your high heels, late pregnancy is a good time to give them a break. Wearing comfortable (even orthotic), well-fitting shoes is key to reducing foot swelling, as well as to preventing hip and back problems that can arise as your center of gravity shifts and your weight increases.
▪︎ Get a massage
Massage helps circulate the fluids that tend to accumulate in your feet, which will in turn reduce swelling.
So grab your water bottle, put your feet up, and let your partner gently massage your feet and legs. Adding some peppermint or lavender essential oil can make this even more relaxing.
▪︎ Sleep on your left side
Sleeping on your left side when possible can improve blood flow, which reduces swelling of the feet. Lying on your left side takes the pressure of your uterus off of the inferior vena cava, which is the large blood vessel that returns blood to your heart.
Normal or abnormal swelling?
Most pregnant women have swollen feet and ankles at some point, and this is perfectly normal. However, there are times when swelling could indicate something more serious.
Contact your midwife, doctor or hospital immediately if:
• swelling is there at the start of the day or doesn’t go down when you rest
• your face or hands are swollen
• the swelling is more than you have had before
These are warning signs for pre-eclampsia, which is high blood pressure caused by pregnancy. This is a very serious condition both for you and your baby, so call your doctor or midwife as soon as possible. Don’t wait for your next regular appointment.
If one leg is more swollen than the other, this could suggest a more serious problem with one of your veins, such as deep vein thrombosis. Again, contact your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.
For more informative articles on pregnancy and other health related issues, please visit our website www.santripty.com and also feel free to consult.