Swelling (edema) in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, an additional 50% of body fluids and blood will be produced to meet the needs of the growing fetus. This leads to an excess collection of fluid (or swelling), a condition normal during pregnancy. Swelling, or edema, is usually seen in hands, face, legs, ankles, and feet. Retention of fluid enables the body to expand as the fetus develops within the womb. The extra fluid production also plays a role in opening the pelvic joints and tissues at the time of delivery.

When do you develop swelling in pregnancy?

Swelling may develop during any stage of pregnancy but is more common around fifth month and third trimester. The growing fetus puts pressure on the pelvic veins and the large veins that carry blood from the limbs to the heart. But the return is slowed down allowing pooling of blood in the limbs, which in turn forces the fluid from the veins to move into the tissues of the legs and hands. Retention of fluid is more in women with multiples and also in those with excess amniotic fluid. Some of the factors that affect swelling include

  • Heat during summer
  • Standing for a long duration
  • Long days of activity
  • Low potassium intake
  • High sodium intake

When should you inform the doctor about swelling?

It is normal to have a moderate amount of swelling in ankles, feet, and hands. But you may need medical attention if you have

  • Swelling in face
  • Puffiness around eyes
  • More than moderate swelling in hands
  • Sudden swelling of feet and legs
  • One leg is more swollen than the other
  • Pain or tenderness in the calf

The above-said symptoms may indicate pre-eclampsia, a condition that needs to be monitored.

What are the remedies for swelling?

Here are few tips to reduce swelling during pregnancy:

  • Avoid standing for a long duration
  • Avoid staying outdoors, especially in summers, for a long time
  • Keep your feet elevated while resting
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes around ankles and feet
  • Wear supportive stockings or socks
  • Use cold compress in swollen areas
  • Avoid high heels as much as possible
  • Drink enough water to avoid water retention
  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet

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