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Swelling During Pregnancy

Katlyn Joy |13, December 2010


Swelling During Pregnancy

Up to 75% of pregnant women experience mild swelling or edema. But if you're one of that majority it might not feel all that normal when you can't fit comfortably in your shoes anymore.

The main reason for swelling in pregnancy is increased fluids. No, don't stop drinking water! During pregnancy a woman will have a 50% increase in body fluids and blood to support the growing baby. The increase in fluids help prepare the joint and tissues for the expansion needed for the pregnancy and delivery. One quarter of the weight gain a woman experiences during pregnancy is due to fluid accumulation.

Another reason for swelling in pregnancy is the increased pressure of the uterus on the veins, making it harder for the blood to make the return trip to your heart which results in swollen legs, feet and ankles.

While swelling can occur at any point in pregnancy, it is most likely to affect women around their fifth month, and often worsens in the last trimester. It can be seen in your feet, legs and ankles.

Certain things may worsen swelling such as summer heat, excessive periods of standing and a long active day. Diet can affect swelling too, so salt food to taste and avoid a diet overflowing with high sodium content. Also, too much caffeine can contribute as well as a diet low in potassium.

Ways to Reduce or Prevent Swelling

  • Drink Lots of Water!

  • Wear loose fitting clothing. Tight restrictive clothing will only worsen edema. Especially watch out for tight cuffs or jewelry around ankles or wrists.

  • Exercise regularly. An active lifestyle during pregnancy will help with your overall health and wellbeing but will also decrease swelling.

  • Try swimming or pool time to help reduce swelling. The weight of the water seems against your skin seems to be helpful.

  • Keep your cool. Avoid being in hot, humid weather. Also, applying cold compresses to swollen areas might provide some relief.

  • Avoid prolonged periods of standing. Take frequent breaks to sit, stretch or even walk. Don't stay in any one position for too long.

  • Rest frequently, especially with your feet elevated.

  • Don't cross your legs at the ankles when seated.

  • Drink plenty of water as it will help keep your body flushed.

  • Talk to your doctor if you still have problems about wear support stockings.

  • Also, discuss your sodium intake with your health care provider.

Warning Signs

Sudden excessive swelling, particularly in areas besides the feet, ankles and legs such as the hands and face may indicate pre-eclampsia. Other symptoms of pre-eclampsia include headache, visual symptoms such as blurred sight or floaters, and increasing blood pressure and the presence of protein in urine specimens. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, consult your doctor without delay. Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that can result in death of both mother and child so always err on the side of caution.

If swelling occurs in only one leg and especially if accompanied by pain or tenderness, it could indicate a blood clot. This is also a serious condition requiring prompt medical attention.

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