Swelling During Pregnancy - Why It Happens And What To Do About It
Swelling during pregnancy can be alarming and uncomfortable. But it’s also totally normal and a healthy sign, especially when mild to moderate and changes based on your activity.
The fluid retention and increased amount of body fluids in the tissue space outside the blood vessels reflect the normal hormonal changes of a healthy pregnancy.
Many women notice a slight puffiness or swelling in the fingers, hands and face. However, the additional fluid typically congregates in the lower part of the body, namely the feet, ankles and genital area.
This is related to the pull of gravity and the pressure of the enlarging uterus on vessels that bring blood back to the heart. It’s called dependent edema and usually temporarily decreases after rest and elevation or a night’s sleep on your side.
Swelling during pregnancy is made worse by:
Prolonged periods of sitting or standing
Carrying a large fetus or twins
Increased perspiration leading to loss of salt
Inadequate intake of fluids, protein or salt
How To Decrease Swelling During Pregnancy
While swelling during pregnancy is common, many women find it uncomfortable and unsightly (not to mention it can make it hard to get your shoes on!) However, there are a number of ways to reduce the amount of swelling.
Avoid salt excess, but don’t restrict your intake either. Salt your food to taste, as you need a minimum of 2-3 grams of sodium daily. Sea salt is preferable to table salt that has chemical additives.
Make sure your diet includes 60-90 grams of protein every day.
Avoid curbing your fluid intake, which will actually aggravate the problem. Drink at least 64 ounces of fluid daily. This should be mostly composed of pure spring or well water - plain, naturally flavored, or sparkling, or herbal tea - between meals (at least 20-30 minutes before or 2 hours after).
Check if you are anemic. If so, increase your intake of iron with food and/or an herbal supplement like Floradix Iron or yellow dock, and follow this guide here.
Drink 1-2 cups nettles and dandelion herbal infusions each day. To prepare:
Soak one ounce of each herb in 1 quart boiling water for 3-4 hours.
Strain in a glass canning jar.
Add a dash of honey, fresh lemon, lime juice, or mint leaves to taste.
Alternately, take a dropperful of each herb, in tincture twice daily (reputable brands include Gaia, Wish Garden and Eclectic Institute), or the dried encapsulated form, 1-2 freeze-dried caps 2-4 times/day. Professional grade, top quality all natural supplements I recommend are also available in my online holistic apothecary.
Avoid diuretic medications. Safe and gentle herbal diuretics include:
Hawthorne berries - Try Gaia, Wish Garden or Eclectic institute’s encapsulated freeze-dried extract 500 mg/day or 1-2 caps 2-4 times per day
Cornsilk tea - 1 cup 2-4 times/day
Black tea (if you are not a regular drinker of caffeine)
Consult a professional homeopath to suggest a remedy specific for your symptoms, as there are many homeopathic remedies that are not only safe but also effective for treating this condition. Or you can start by referring to books like Homeopathy For Pregnancy, Birth and Your Baby’s First Year by Miranda Castro.
Avoid prolonged periods of sitting or standing, and lying on your back during the third trimester.
Flex or bend your feet back towards your body several times at frequent intervals if you have to sit or stand for a long time.
Do regular exercise like dancing, brisk walking, prenatal yoga, swimming or water aerobics for at least ½ hour 5 days per week.
Inversions are wonderful yoga postures to reduce swelling, especially helpful, and calming at the end of the day when swelling is usually at its worst.
A great one that is easy to do is Viparita Karini, otherwise known as “legs up the wall.” Lie down on your back, with your buttocks all the way to the wall, flat on the floor or elevated on a folded yoga blanket, bolster or block. Let your legs rest straight up the wall for 10-20 minutes. It is also a great opportunity for quiet meditation, focusing on slow deep breathing and inner gazing between your eyebrows.
A lavender infused eye pillow adds to the delicious relaxation effect. Use the props to help you feel more comfortable and modify the postures to suit your needs. They are a great asset for your yoga practice, and will help in labor as well.
REST AND COMFORT
Don’t stand if you can sit. Even better, is to squat, and don’t cross your legs while sitting.
Take frequent breaks to lie down on your side, or sit with your back straight and your legs elevated above the level of your torso (ideally for 1/2 hour 4 times daily, depending on how much swelling you have).
Avoid tight restrictive clothing from the waist down, especially socks, knee highs, tight pants and girdles.
Wear comfortable flat shoes instead of high-heeled or ill-fitting ones.
Put on elastic maternity support stockings before you get out of bed in the morning, but raise your legs first to empty them as much as possible from excess fluid.
Get a regular foot and leg massage with arnica oil, while you lie on your left side. Your partner can do this each night!
If you are overwhelmed and need some guidance, schedule a consultation with me.
When It Might Be More Serious
Call your midwife or doctor if these suggestions do not help or if the swelling:
Becomes severe, excessive, or generalized throughout your body
Becomes pitting, in which pressing the puffy area leaves a temporary indentation mark.
Increases especially in your hands and face
Is only affecting one arm or leg, not both.
Is as bad in the morning as it is at the end of the day, and does not lessen with rest and elevation.
Seek help if you experience sudden weight gain (5 pounds or more in less than 1 week) not related to diet changes or reduced activity, and if it your swelling is associated with headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness, spots before your eyes or blurry vision, changes in mental status, chest or abdominal pain, shortness of breath or other unusual symptoms.
Keep in mind that for most people, swelling in pregnancy is just a common nuisance that will quickly be relieved with the birth of your beautiful baby.
Check out my number one international best selling book Natural Birth Secrets and my Love Your Birth course - an online version of how I have helped thousands in my local practice. Both resources are unique, but each provide an in depth, one-of-a-kind holistic approach created by me, a seasoned nurse midwife of over two decades, who has seen everything! It is now recommended by midwives, physicians, health care professionals around the globe, and doulas take it for their certification training.