Water also helps flush out toxins in the bloodstream.
The fluid or edema, stored in your tissues outside the bloodstream, is mobilized back into the circulation.
This can literally be liters of fluid stored in your legs.
2. Leg Elevation:
Elevating your legs above the level of your heart facilitates the flow of blood from your lower extremities back to your heart.
This also helps mobilize the fluid in the tissues around your ankles. Once the fluid is back in your bloodstream, your kidneys will remove the fluid
3. Compression stockings:
To prevent the pooling of blood in your legs, the use of compression stockings can be very helpful. Compression stockings are sized and fit by your provider or a medical supply company.
This is to ensure that the proper amount of pressure is applied to the veins.
The amount of pressure must not be too high as it can be constructive and cause worse swelling.
Though you can order compression stockings through our Amazon affiliate links, you should discuss using compression stockings with your prenatal provider.
If you have a problem with varicose veins, management during pregnancy should be addressed by your provider as a preventive measure before swelling starts to occur.
Management of varicose veins associated with swelling is also important to make sure you do not develop phlebitis (vein inflammation) or blood clots.
4. Moderate Exercise:
If cleared by your prenatal care provider, moderate exercise improves circulation and can help prevent blood clots.
Our OB/GYN Dr. Doug Penta, MD recommends the following exercises to your pregnant patient to help prevent and reduce swelling:
Aerobic exercise: Aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling are safe for pregnant women and can help improve circulation, reduce swelling, and prevent excessive weight gain. It is important to keep the heart rate at a moderate level and stay hydrated.
Leg exercises: Simple leg exercises, such as ankle rotations and calf raises, can help improve circulation and reduce swelling in the legs and feet.
Yoga: Light yoga and stretching exercises can help improve flexibility, and circulation, and reduce swelling in the legs and feet. However, it is important to avoid poses that put pressure on the belly or require lying flat on the back.
Pelvic tilts: Pelvic tilts can help strengthen the abdominal and back muscles, relieve tension in the lower back, and reduce swelling in the legs and feet.
Kegels: Kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which can improve circulation and reduce swelling.
It is important to remember to listen to your body, stop if you experience any discomfort or pain, and consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen during pregnancy.
If you are required to be on your feet from the moment you leave the house in the morning until you return at night, you can be almost assured you will observe a significant amount of ankle swelling during the day.
Only after you are able to rest and elevate your legs will the swelling start to subside.
Many women find they cannot fit into their shoes during the day due to ankle edema.
5. Reduce Salt Intake:
Table salt is notorious for causing swelling and high blood pressure.
Avoid adding extra salt to your food. Most food is prepared with more than enough salt.
Many individuals notice increased swelling after eating a salty meal. Reducing salt intake is a healthy dietary change everyone should consider and not just during pregnancy.
6. Avoid Restrictive Clothing:
Restrictive clothing can act as a tourniquet, which can obstruct the flow of blood back to the heart.
This causes the pooling of blood and allows fluid to leak out of blood vessels into the surrounding tissues.
The best visible example of swelling during pregnancy is when you remove your socks and see the impression left behind.
7. Avoid Prolonged Standing:
Especially standing still, as this allows the blood to pool in your lower extremities.
By moving around your muscles contract and this promotes the return of blood to your heart so it can be perfused through your kidneys.
This removes excess fluid and toxins from your system.
*Swelling during pregnancy is common; however, it is important to remember that it can be associated with pregnancy-related complications such as pre-eclampsia (toxemia).
Swelling of the hands and face can be particularly concerning and should be brought to the attention of your prenatal care provider immediately.
What pregnancy complications cause swelling:
It is important to discuss the abnormal causes of swelling during pregnancy as these conditions must be evaluated and managed promptly by your prenatal care provider:
This is a common problem, particularly among young women having their first baby.
If you have ankle swelling accompanied by swelling in the hands and face this is particularly concerning and a thorough clinical evaluation must be performed to be certain your swelling is not related to toxemia.
2. Phlebitis (vein inflammation) or blood clots:
Though rare, these medical complications can also cause swelling in the ankles and legs.
This form of swelling is associated with other symptoms because it is an inflammatory process.
In addition to ankle swelling, you may notice redness, tenderness, or pain in the calves.
If you must be evaluated immediately to be sure this problem is not the result of a vascular problem.
The evaluation will include a physical exam, ultrasound, and additional studies as deemed necessary.
These vascular conditions must be diagnosed promptly and require treatment.
3. Medical problems unrelated to pregnancy:
Maternal medical problems …. kidney disease, etc. can also cause swelling.
A thorough medical history and physical examination at your first prenatal visit are required to screen for these underlying medical problems.
*Assuming the above conditions (which are not all-inclusive) have been excluded by your prenatal care provider, the cause of your swelling is likely the result of “normal” physiologic changes associated with pregnancy.
What is considered “normal” swelling during pregnancy?
To answer this question it is important to have a basic understanding of the changes in maternal circulation during pregnancy.
Having this information helps make sense of the suggestions that will be offered at the end of this article.
As a rule, compliance with medical advice is far better when there is a scientific explanation or reason for why health problems or symptoms occur.
“Normal” swelling during pregnancy occurs when the result of the blood pressure within the blood vessels becomes greater than the osmotic pressure to keep fluid in your vessels.
As the fluid in your blood is allowed to leak or seep out of the vessels, it is sequestered in body tissues surrounding blood vessels.
This is the swelling we observe and is the reason you may notice “pitting edema” when you press on your swollen ankles.
This pitting resolves as the fluid redistributes.
Blood flow to the lower extremities is a high-pressure system.
Your arteries pump blood away from your heart. In addition, the forces of gravity push blood down when standing.
The low-pressure venous system is unable to effectively oppose this arterial pressure and return the blood back to the heart.
Veins use valves and muscular contractions to pump blood up your legs and back to the heart.
This is why simply elevating your legs can alleviate the swelling.
Dr. Doug Penta, MD - Co-Founder of Maternity Comfort Solutions
Dr. Doug Penta, is a seasoned Obstetrician and Gynecologist with over 38 years of practice, co-founded Maternity Comfort Solutions to provide evidence-based pregnancy and parenting information. A Boston University alum and former Clinical Professor at Harvard, his articles on Maternity Comfort Solutions offer expectant mothers invaluable nutritional insights.
Sue Winters, RN - Co-Founder of Maternity Comfort Solutions
Sue combines 20 years of nursing with a rich background in early childhood education. Co-founder of Maternity Comfort Solutions, her articles provide creative toddler activities and practical tips on pregnancy nutrition and baby shower planning, embodying her commitment to supporting families through early parenthood.