Swelling in Pregnancy

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Swelling, or edema, is a very common discomfort of pregnancy. It's estimated that about 75% of women will experience this excessive accumulation of fluid around the legs and ankles at some point during pregnancy. Here are some helpful hints on dealing with normal swelling in pregnancy:

Try Rest

When the weather is warm, or you've been standing on your feet for awhile, or even just at the end of your day, you may notice that your feet feel tight, your shoes don't fit, or just a general puffiness. In general, swelling is nothing to be alarmed about. Most women report that swelling subsides after a good night's rest, or several hours lying down.

What You Take in Counts

If you'd like to take a more active approach in treating edema, there are a couple of things you can do to help relieve the symptoms. The first and probably one of the best and most important is to drink a lot of water. While it doesn't seem like it makes sense to get rid of fluids by taking in more, the extra fluids will help flush out your system of waste products which may have increased swelling. You really need at least 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. The best tip I have for accomplishing this is to fill up a container to carry around and empty it by the end of the day.

The Truth About Salt

While many people believe that swelling is caused by excessive amounts of salt in the diet, the opposite is also true. Limiting the amount of salt you take in can cause swelling as well. As with all things, moderation is the key to balance.

Try Water or Hydrotherapy

Some studies suggest that even beyond the once cold water immersion, water aerobics can help with swelling. Being in a pool of water helps the body shed the excess fluids through the kidneys while supporting the pregnant uterus.

Other Basic Tips to Help Reduce Swelling and Related Discomforts

  • Don't wear elastic topped socks or knee-hi pantyhose.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Slip-on types work best.
  • Put your feet up when possible.
  • If you stand at work, try to move around slightly or get a stool to prop a foot up.
  • Try support pantyhose.

You may also notice slight swelling in your hands. This may be enough that you want to consider what to do with your rings, should your hands become very swollen. Be careful because swelling might sneak up on you, forcing you to make a decision that you do not want to make, including the need to cut the rings off.

When Swelling Is Not Normal

When swelling is sudden or extreme, or found in not only the legs and feet but face and hands, it can be something serious. You should report this type of swelling to your midwife or doctor immediately. You should also report swelling that does not go away after many hours of rest. If you're at a higher risk for complications that include swelling like preeclampsia your practitioner should have explained what you are looking for and when it needs to be reported.

Whenever you're concerned about your swelling or other medical questions, never hesitate to talk to your doctor or midwife. This is part of their job and they are more than willing to help you determine if you are experiencing a normal swelling in pregnancy or a complication, the difference can be subtle and important for you and your baby. 

In the end, you may or may not notice swelling. If you do, find a good way to deal with it that works for you and keeps you comfortable. If you notice something problematic, be sure to report it right away to your provider. The sooner you report problems, the more likely your doctor or midwife will be to help intervene if necessary. The vast majority of time swelling is a nuisance and not a medical issue.

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