As you progress through your pregnancy, you may see notice your feet and ankles start to swell. Swelling or oedema affects roughly three quarters of expecting mums, more often in the third trimester.
Why do my feet and ankles swell during pregnancy?
A woman’s blood volume can increase by 50% during pregnancy. Added to this, hormonal fluid retention and extra pressure on the pelvic veins (and inferior vena cava) caused by the expanding uterus can cause the accumulation of fluid and swelling in the lower body.
Other factors that contribute to swollen feet and ankles during pregnancy include:
- Standing or remaining seated for hours
- Living in a hot or warm environment
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Taking too much caffeine
- Dietary imbalances
When will my feet and ankles start to swell?
First trimester. As your progesterone levels increase rapidly, you may notice some abdominal bloating or some puffiness in your face, hands, or feet. If you notice pronounced swelling and/or your swelling is accompanied by headaches, dizziness, bleeding speak with your doctor immediately.
Second trimester (starting week 13). You may start noticing swollen feet around the fourth or fifth month of your pregnancy. Your rings and shoes might feel a little snug.
Third trimester (starting week 28). During the third trimester as your baby continues to grow, this is when most women start to experience some swelling in their feet and ankles. The weight of your baby and uterus slows blood flow and circulation from your legs back to your heart.
Most extra fluid decreases in the first few weeks following the birth of your baby.
What can I do to relieve swelling at home?
Luckily there are some simple natural home remedies and lifestyle changes you can try to reduce swelling and improve comfort:
- Wear comfortable, supportive shoes. Supportive (orthopedic) shoes feel better on swollen feet and can help relieve leg and back pain during pregnancy. At home, wearing a pair of soft foam slippers can help keep you comfortable.
- Take a break from standing or sitting. If your job requires you to stay on your feet for extended periods, take regular breaks, sit down somewhere comfortable and elevate your legs. If you are seated or sedentary for most of the day, get up and move regularly because your leg muscles act as a pump helping to improve your circulation.
- Sleep on your left side. It is safe to sleep on either during your pregnancy however, if you are experiencing lower leg swelling you may find sleeping on your left side helps. This will help keep the weight of your uterus off the inferior vena cava (big blood vessel from the legs) as well as your liver and kidneys, and minimize swelling.
- Limit your salt intake. Salt (sodium) makes your body retain extra water. To keep swelling manageable, try to avoid salty foods and adding extra salt to your food. Instead of using salt, add flavour to your food with herbs like oregano, rosemary and thyme.
- Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a known diuretic, excess caffeine intake can cause you to wee more often affecting your fluid balance. Swap your usual coffee for a decaf option or herbal tea instead.
- Perform some simple circulation exercises. Foot and ankle pumps and ankle circles activate the calf muscles which acts as a a powerful pump in the lower leg. When standing heel raises can be performed. Repeat the movements 10-20 times on both sides When done regularly, these simple movements will help improve circulation and minimise swelling in your feet and ankles.
- Wear compression socks. Compression wear like travel socks or graduated compression stockings will help keep you comfortable, especially if you’re on your feet for most of the day.
Should I see a doctor about edema?
Swollen feet and ankles may be quite normal during pregnancy, though in some cases, it may be indicative of more serious health issues. See your doctor if you experience sudden swelling or if your swelling occurs in combination with headaches, dizziness and/or abdominal pain.
Solidea is here for you
If you seek relief and comfort from swelling during pregnancy, Solidea is here to help. We offer a wide range of compression garments for women during and after pregnancy. Browse our store today.