Note: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Edema, go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared.
You expect to lose sight of your waistline when you get pregnant. Having your ankles disappear is quite another matter!
Normal Swelling During Pregnancy
Some swelling, also known as edema, is normal when you’re pregnant. Your body is storing lots of extra fluid to maintain both your and your baby’s blood supply, refresh amniotic fluid, and more. In fact, about 25% of your pregnancy weight gain is fluid! It’s common to notice swelling of your feet, ankles, hands, face, and legs around halfway through your pregnancy, and to experience more swelling as you proceed through the third trimester. Standing for long periods, summertime heat, low potassium levels, and high sodium can all increase swelling.
The good news may be that swelling is often normal and harmless, but that doesn’t make it comfortable. Edema-relief tricks to try include:
- Walk or swim in the pool. Cool water won’t necessarily bring the swelling down, but the temperature and feeling of weightlessness can be soothing.
- Get a foot massage. Some people warn expectant parents to avoid an acupressure point on the ankle that’s associated with labor, but go ahead and rub those feet!
- Sleep on your left side. This sleep position can ease the pressure on your inferior vena cava vein.
- Watch the sodium and potassium in your diet. There’s not conclusive evidence that a dietary tweak will impact your swelling, but it won’t hurt, either. Peel a banana now and then and watch the salt, and see if you feel better.
- Prop your feet up. Regular exercise will keep your blood moving, but it’s also good to put your feet up from time to time. If you have to sit for long periods at work, try elevating your feet on a stool. If you have to stand often, request a chair if you can, and take breaks when you need to stretch or rest.
Remember to stay well-hydrated too, especially on warmer days. Your ankles may look puffed up with fluid, but you need plenty of water to keep healthy.
Warning Signs of Harmful Swelling
Sometimes, swelling can be a sign of trouble. Watch out for swelling that comes on suddenly, especially if there’s a lot of puffiness in your face and around your eyes. Additional symptoms like headaches, blurred vision, and eye “floaters” can be warning signs of preeclampsia. Lopsided swelling (such as one leg that looks more swollen than the other) can indicate a possible blood clot. Call a doctor right away if you notice a red flag.
When Will I Go Back to Normal?
You can expect to see a significant reduction in swelling in some areas shortly after you give birth. Other areas, such as your fingers, may take a little longer to go back to normal. Many women are eager to resume wearing a wedding or engagement ring if they had to remove it due to swelling. Don’t rush to resize the ring. Chances are that by your six-week postpartum appointment, the ring will slip back on.