Edema during Pregnancy – Why It Happens and What You Can Do to Relieve It?

Your abdomen may not be the only thing that is swelling while you are pregnant. In fact, you will start to notice mild swelling on your feet or ankles. However, the amount of swelling can vary. Edema or swelling affects pregnant women who are about 22 weeks to 27 weeks pregnant and this symptom can stick around until the delivery of your baby. This symptom typically affects the lower extremities. However, edema can occasionally appear as swelling of the face or the hands.

What Causes Edema during Pregnancy?

There are several reasons why edema occurs during pregnancy. For instance, the main reason why pregnant women develop edema is due to the increased production of pregnancy hormones. Edema results from a hormone induced sodium retention. Aside from this, edema can also occur when the expanding uterus intermittently puts pressure on the vena cava when lying down, resulting to the obstruction of the blood flow from both the femoral veins towards the heart.

There are also pathologic causes of edema. While they may be less common, they are often dangerous. For instance, one of the pathologic causes of edema during pregnancy is DVT or deep venous thrombosis and preeclampsia. DVT is considered more common during pregnancy as pregnant women are less mobile. Preeclampsia, on the other hand, results from a pregnancy induced hypertension.

What Are the Risks Associated with Swollen Feet and Ankles?

Mild swelling of the feet and ankles caused by edema is harmless and normal during pregnancy. However, if swelling has reached both your hands and your face, you should contact your health care provider right away. In addition, if edema or swelling is accompanied by several other symptoms like elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine and rapid weight gain, you should contact your health care provider and seek consult, as this may be a sign of preeclampsia.

How to Prevent Edema during Pregnancy?

There are several ways on preventing swelling of your feet and ankles during pregnancy. Here is a list of these smart ways:

  • Avoid Standing and Sitting for Long Periods. You should avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. If you are on your feet a lot, you should consider taking frequent breaks and take a seat. However, if you are sitting down a lot, you should take a five minute stroll once every hour.
  • Find Time to Elevate Your Feet. When you are sitting down a lot, you should consider elevating your legs. This way, you will prevent blood from pooling on your feet.
  • Sleep on Your Right or Left Side. You should consider sleeping on your side instead of your back. This should help reduce swelling as well as help with waste elimination through your kidneys. It is ideal to sleep on your left side, as the vena cava is located on your right side.
  • Adhere to a Pregnancy Appropriate Exercise Routine. You should consider getting some pregnancy appropriate exercises like walking or swimming. However, you should consult your health care provider first to ensure that it would be healthy for you and your baby. Exercise may be good for those who do not have a complicated pregnancy.
  • Avoid Tight Clothes and Leggings. You should avoid wearing tight clothes, stocking and leggings. Your ultimate goal is promote blood circulation and avoid swelling. By wearing comfortable and loose clothes, you are promoting circulation on your lower extremities and preventing swelling or edema from occurring.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes. You should consider wearing comfortable footwear, especially if you are going out. Once you are at home, you should wear comfortable slippers. You should avoid high heeled footwear for the mean time while you are pregnant.
  • Consider Wearing Support Hose. While you are pregnant, you should consider wearing full pantyhose or thigh high support hose. Whichever choice you make, you have to make sure that you wear them early in the morning before the swelling starts. This way, the support hose can do their job well.
  • Drink Lots of Water. You should try to drink at least eight glasses of water every day, as this can help flush excessive amounts of sodium in your body, minimizing swelling.
  • Limit Salt Intake But Don’t Cut It Entirely. To minimize swelling during pregnancy, you should consider cutting back on your salt intake. However, it is also not recommended to cut it all back entirely. You should make sure that your salt intake is in moderation.
  • Avoid Crossing Your Legs. You should make sure that you do not cross your legs or ankles while you are sitting, as this can impede circulation and promote swelling on your feet and ankles.
  • Avoid Junk Foods. While you are pregnant, you have to make sure that your eating healthy foods. You should avoid eating junk foods as they have salt contents which can aggravate edema during pregnancy.

When Should You Contact Your Health Care Provider?

While edema during pregnancy is common and normal, you still need to be cautious. Excessive swelling during pregnancy may be a sign of a pregnancy complication or other serious conditions. Thus, you have to consult your health care provider when you notice anything that is not normal. For instance, you should seek medical help right away if you notice swelling on your hands or face, as this can be a sign of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a serious condition that can have a negative effect to you and your baby.

You should also consider calling your health care provider if you notice that one of your legs is significantly more edematous or swollen compared to the other, especially if you are also experiencing tenderness or pain on your thigh or calf. This can be actually a sign of a blood clot on your lower extremity, which is another serious condition.