Swelling During Pregnancy: Why It Is Caused And How You Can Get Relief

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Sit for ten minutes with your feet down, and it looks as if the feet have suddenly become fat. That’s how it is when you are pregnant. Your feet, legs and even face and hands get swollen and that is normal during pregnancy. But why does this happen? Read on as MomJunction tells you why pregnancy causes swelling, when it is not normal and how you can deal with it.

What Is Swelling During Pregnancy?

Swelling of feet, hands, face or ankles, also known as edema, is caused due to the excessive retention of fluids in the body tissues. It usually occurs around the fifth month and increases towards the third trimester.

Pregnancy brings in various changes in your body, making your feet and other parts to swell.

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What Causes Swelling In Pregnancy?

The main reason is the increase in blood volume and other fluids, which are necessary to meet the increasing demands of the growing fetus. However, it is also caused due to other reasons:

  • Your growing uterus puts pressure on the vena cava (the largest vein located on the right-hand side of the body, which carries blood from the legs and feet back to your heart) and the pelvic veins, thus restricting blood circulation from the legs back to your heart. This pushes the fluid from the vein into the tissues of your legs, ankles, and the feet causing swelling (1).
  • Hormonal changes, such as an increase in the levels of progesterone, estrogen, hCG, and prolactin, lead to changes in vascular permeability, leading to edema.
  • Lung, liver, kidney and thyroid diseases, and congestive heart failure can cause edema (2).
  • High blood pressure and anemia
  • Medications for depression or blood pressure can cause swelling or edema.

In addition to these internal conditions, certain external influences also lead to swollenness during pregnancy.

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[ Read: Ways To Cure Postpartum Edema ]

Factors That Lead To Swelling

As mentioned above, swelling is noticeable around the second and third trimesters. Some of the factors affecting swelling during pregnancy are (3):

  • Summer heat
  • Standing for a long time
  • Diet low in protein
  • Diet low in potassium
  • High intake of sodium
  • High consumption of caffeine

There is no need to panic about swollenness, and you won’t when we tell you that swelling can be good for your body.

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Can Swelling During Pregnancy Be Good For You?

Yes, it can, and here’s how it is:

  • It helps soften and expand your body for the growth of your baby.
  • The excess fluids help strengthen your pelvic joints and tissues, facilitating delivery.
  • The extra fluid in the body accounts for about 25% of weight gain during pregnancy; it means, you can lose that weight at the earliest after your delivery.

Swelling is a temporary condition, which will wane after childbirth. But excessive swelling can point towards some serious health issue.

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When Is Swelling A Concern During Pregnancy?

Swelling might sometimes need prompt medical attention. Check for these symptoms:

  • Abnormal swelling in your face and around your eyes, more than what you generally notice in fingers, ankles, and feet.
  • When edema is accompanied by other symptoms like abnormal weight gain, proteinuria, and high blood pressure, then it may indicate preeclampsia (4).
  • If one of your legs is more swollen than the other, and you have redness, warmth, and tenderness, then it could be deep venous thrombosis (DVT) (5).
  • If you observe abnormal swelling in your wrists and your hands, it could point towards Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This syndrome is associated with swellings that constrict the nerves running down your arms.
  • If you notice excessive swelling or rapid weight gain, or tightening of clothes irrespective of your diet, then seek medical attention.

In such difficult cases, see a doctor and follow their advice. But normal cases of swelling may be dealt with at home itself.

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[ Read: Hormones Changes During Pregnancy ]

14 Tips To Treat Swelling During Pregnancy

You may not be able to avoid swelling, but these tips would help you get some relief (6) (7):

1. Don’t be stationary for long.

Make sure not to stand or sit for a long time. If you need to stand for a longer duration, then take breaks in between to sit for a while. If you have to sit for a long time, then get up and take a stroll. Do not sit cross-legged.

2. Sleep on your left side.

Sleeping on your left side puts less pressure on the veins, which carry blood from legs to your heart. Make use of pillows while sleeping to keep your legs elevated. This will help reduce swellings and pains.

3. Wear airy and comfortable shoes.

Ankles and feet swelling during pregnancy may make it difficult for you to wear shoes. As the foot size increases due to swelling, your old shoes might not fit well.

Ensure that you choose footwear without a heel.

  • You can go for athletic shoes that help reduce swelling and minimize the pain considerably.

[ Read: Footwear For Pregnant Women ]

4. Eat healthy food.

During pregnancy, you must opt for healthy diet rather than relishing on junk foods.

  • Include a lot of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
  • High protein diet
  • Cut down on sugar, salt, and fats.
  • Avoid processed and pre-packaged foods.
  • Ensure that you eat food rich in vitamin C (potatoes, pepper, broccoli, and tomatoes, lemon juice ) and vitamin E (wheat germ, sunflower seeds, sweet corn, and nuts).
  • Include foods rich in antioxidants (cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, artichokes, and prunes), and potassium (green beans, sweet potatoes, clams, bananas, and molasses).

5. Reduce sodium intake.

Avoid using too much salt in your food as salt makes your body retain water. Munch on less salty snacks.

6. Keep yourself hydrated.

Drink eight to ten glasses of water every day. Fluids help in flushing out the toxins, excess sodium levels, and waste products from the body. This, in turn, helps in minimizing the extent of swelling.

7. Avoid wearing tight stockings.

Tight socks restrict the free flow of blood and fluids in the body. Go for full pantyhose, which are comfortable to wear and support your tummy.

8. Indulge in exercises.

Engage in moderate exercises or pregnancy yoga, such as walking, that enable blood circulation in your body. However, consult your doctor before you begin to exercise.

[ Read: Body Changes During Pregnancy ]

9. Wear compression socks.

The compression socks help relieve pain and prevent fluid retention in your legs, feet, and ankles. Go for the ones that fit you comfortably.

10. Try various therapies.

Consult your doctor before trying any of these therapies:

  • A gentle oil massage will help relieve the pain in your legs.
  • Soak your feet in lavender, cypress, or chamomile oil to alleviate the discomfort due to swelling.
  • Drink herbal teas that reduce swelling.

11. Relax in a pool.

Standing in a pool can put pressure on the tissues in your legs and offer temporary relief from the pain. Apply cold water on the swollen areas to get relief.

12. Avoid smoking and reduce intake of caffeine.

Quit smoking, alcohol and cut down on caffeine intake, to reduce pain and swelling in pregnancy.

13. Reflexology

It is a good relaxing treatment for your legs, feet, and ankles as long they are not painfully swollen. Make sure to choose a registered and experienced reflexologist, who has experience in treating pregnant women (8).

14. Elevation

Keep your legs elevated on an ottoman or lay down on the floor with your legs elevated and pressed against the wall to get relief from swelling.

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Swelling is a typical symptom of pregnancy. It is temporary and will go away after a few days of childbirth. Nevertheless, you may do some exercises, keep your feet elevated or avoid sitting or standing for long hours to avoid swelling. Follow the above-mentioned tips, and swelling would be gone as soon as your baby is born.

Do you have more tips to share? Let us know in the comment section.

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