Edema in pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body produces almost 50% more blood and fluid to support your baby’s growth. This might result in swelling or edema, especially in your extremities. Here’s what you can do to reduce or alleviate it.

Edema is a medical condition caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues. It is most common in the hands, face, arms, feet, ankles and legs. And causes uncomfortable swelling.

Here are some simple tips on how to alleviate the swelling.

What is edema?

When excess fluid collects in your tissue and your growing uterus puts extra pressure on your veins, this affects the speed at which blood circulates around your body. This may push fluids from your veins into the tissues of your feet and ankles. Edema is more likely to affect you in the later stages of pregnancy. Edema also tends to be worse at the end of the day and during summer.

What to do if you think you have edema?

A certain amount of edema is normal in the ankles and feet during pregnancy. However, if you feel that your body is undergoing changes that worry you, just go and see your doctor. After you deliver your baby, the swelling will disappear as your body gets rid of the excess fluid.

Tips on how to alleviate pregnancy edema

The most important tip is to take a rest from standing whenever you can. Here are some more tips to help you:

  • Try not to sit cross legged.
  • Put your feet up whenever possible – on another chair or stool.
  • Consider elevating your legs slightly with pillows while you sleep.
  • Exactly like on an airplane, stretch your legs and rotate your ankles.
  • A short walk every day will help keep your blood from pooling.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that stretch to accommodate any swelling in your feet, ankles or legs.
  • Drink plenty of water. Swelling doesn’t mean you should decrease the amount of fluids you drink. Approximately 10 cups (2.3 liters) of fluid per day.
  • Exercise regularly – at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, especially walking. Avoid standing or sitting for long periods. Please consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
  • Eat healthily and avoid canned, processed and prepared foods, because they can contain a lot of salt.
  • Ask your doctor if you can use compression socks in order to help improve blood and fluid flow in your legs.
  • Avoid the heat as hot weather and exposure to sunlight can intensify edema.
  • Sleep on your left side if possible. This position puts less pressure on your inferior vena cava, which is the large vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart, and can help control edema. Please consult your doctor if you experience any problems sleeping during pregnancy.

Edema is different from normal swelling during pregnancy. If you would like to learn more about swelling during pregnancy in general, you can read our swelling in pregnancy article.

If you notice a sudden increase in swelling or edema that seems unusual, call your doctor immediately. Swelling can be a sign of high blood pressure or preeclampsia, which are serious conditions that require immediate treatment.

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