Dealing With Swollen Feet During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, there are many ways your body adapts and changes as your baby grows. One of the most obvious, of course, is that your belly gets bigger. But it’s not just your belly that expands. You may notice that your feet get bigger and that your legs and ankles may become somewhat swollen. This can be a normal yet uncomfortable symptom of pregnancy.
In some cases, however, rapid swelling of your hands or face may be a sign of something serious, like preeclampsia, a blood pressure disorder.
Read on to learn what can cause swollen feet during pregnancy, and what remedies you can try to reduce some of the swelling.
What Causes Feet Swelling in Pregnancy
As early as your fifth month of pregnancy, you may notice that your feet begin to increase in size. This might even continue until late in your pregnancy.
As your uterus grows it can put extra pressure on the blood vessels that carry blood from the lower part of your body back to your heart. This results in fluid retention, causing your swollen legs, ankles, and feet during your pregnancy. The medical term for swelling caused by fluid retention is edema.
Hormones can also play a role in feet growing in size. The hormone relaxin, which is responsible for loosening the pelvic joints to make delivery possible, also loosens the ligaments of your feet. This results in the bones of your feet spreading, which is just another symptom you might experience along with pregnancy aches and pains.
Pregnancy-related weight gain can also result in your feet increasing in size.
Signs of Edema in Pregnancy
Here’s how to recognize edema — the kind of swelling caused by fluid retention:
You have swelling just under the skin of your legs
Your skin looks shiny or stretched
If you press on your skin for several minutes, it retains a dimple or pit.
When to See Your Healthcare Provider
If you notice any swelling or any of the symptoms listed above, see your healthcare provider, who will assess what might be causing the swelling. In some cases, your provider might prescribe a diuretic, a medication that helps expel the excess fluid.
If you also experience difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or chest pain, see your provider as soon as possible. These might be signs of pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs due to heart problems), which needs to be treated immediately.
If your hands or face swell suddenly during your pregnancy, notify your healthcare provider immediately. Swelling in the hands or face could be one of the signs of preeclampsia, a blood pressure disorder.
How to Reduce Swelling in Your Feet During Pregnancy
Your healthcare provider is the best person to turn to for expert advice. Here are some preventive strategies and home remedies your provider might suggest if you’re experiencing moderately swollen legs, ankles, and feet during your pregnancy:
Reduce the load. Avoid standing for long periods of time, if possible.
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of liquids.
Limit sodium. Reduce your intake of high-sodium foods or avoid them altogether.
Limit caffeine. Although it’s OK to consume a little caffeine while pregnant, caffeine tends to cause fluid retention. Experts recommend limiting your caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams a day (about a 12-ounce cup of coffee). Read more about the foods and beverages it might be best to limit or avoid while pregnant.
Eat more protein. A low protein diet can increase fluid retention.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Tight and restrictive clothing can decrease circulation and increase fluid retention.
Cool off your dogs. Soak your feet in cool water, or put an ice pack on swollen areas.
Elevate your legs. When you’re sitting or lying down, elevate your legs on a pillow or footrest.
Avoid crossing your legs.
Wear support stockings. Consider wearing support hose, compression socks or stockings. Stay away from socks or stockings that have tight elastic at the top.
Buy new shoes. Consider wearing wider, more supportive shoes to help accommodate your swollen feet during your pregnancy.
Get active. Low-impact activity can help reduce fluid retention. Check with your provider first before starting a new exercise routine when pregnant.
Lie on your side. While resting or sleeping, lie on your side. This will take pressure off the vein that moves blood from your lower body back to your heart.
Protect your legs and feet. Keep your skin clean and moisturized. Dry and cracked skin can easily get scrapes or cuts, opening you to the possibility of infection.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Swollen legs, feet, and ankles are common symptoms of pregnancy. Although this kind of mild swelling is often nothing to worry about, it’s always safest to ask your healthcare provider just to double check. In the meantime, by trying some of the tips we’ve listed you may be able to reduce some of the swelling, and feel a little more comfortable.
Yes, having swollen feet might be an uncomfortable change you’re experiencing during pregnancy, but remember that once your little one is born your feet will gradually go back to normal and all of these annoyances will have been worth it.
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