Swelling in pregnancy is one of the most common complaints, especially as your due date approaches or you’re pregnant during the warmer months.
WHAT CAUSES SWELLING IN PREGNANCY?
Swelling in pregnancy is most often due to the increased blood volume and water your body holds which rises the second trimester and peaks in the third trimester. Your body can hold up to 8 litres of extra water, and your blood volume increases by 30-50% at then end of your pregnancy. That’s a LOT of extra fluid!
Most often this extra fluids stays inside your cells to help support your pregnancy, but sometimes it can pool elsewhere creating swelling. Often when you sit or stand for extended periods, this fluid ends up pooling in your ankles and feet causing swelling aka “cankles” (where your calves blend into your ankles). Swelling can happen at any time, but is more common towards then end of the pregnancy and is most often experienced at the end of the day, or after an extra warm day.
HOW TO REDUCE OR AVOID SWELLING?
Swelling is sometimes unavoidable and it can be uncomfortable. Here are some tips on how to prevent or decrease the swelling.
- Avoid standing or sitting for extended periods. Get up and move around as often as you can.
- If you can’t move around as often as you need to, try compression socks. These help prevent the blood and fluid pooling in your lower legs and ankles.
- If you sit a lot or are traveling, you can do small foot and leg exercises to keep the blood moving. Simple moves like ankle circles, raising your toes up then pointing them down, and calf flexes can do a lot to keep the fluid moving around.
- Drink lots of water during the day to keep your body fluids and blood moving.
- Try to avoid high sodium foods as this can cause further fluid retention.
- And at then end of the day or when you can, reset with your feet elevated, even bringing them above the level of your heart if you can tolerate it. This will allow the fluid to move back out of your legs for reabsorption.
- Asking your partner for a foot or leg massage is also never a bad idea!
WHEN IS SWELLING NOT NORMAL
There are times where swelling is abnormal and can be a cause for concern.
- If you notice a sudden increase in swelling, especially in your hands, feet, face, or around the eyes.
- If the swelling is accompanied by a bad headache that isn’t resolved with Tylenol, vision changes, or a heart burn type pain under the ribs that doesn’t go away with Tums or other antacids.
- If the swelling is only in one leg and is accompanied by redness and pain in one spot on the leg or calf
These can be signs that the swelling is being caused by something called pre-eclampsia or a blood clot in the leg and should be assessed. As always if you are concerned, speak to your prenatal care provider or go to your birth centre for assessment.
Common symptoms at the end of the pregnancy is discussed in every prenatal class, so contact your local mama coach to learn more!