Moderate swelling or retaining of water in the hands, face, legs, ankles, and/or feet, known as “edema,” is very normal in pregnancy. Edema is caused in pregnancy by the increase in blood volume and other fluids needed for the baby as well as from an increase in hormones.
Ankles and feet tend to swell because the size of your baby and uterus can put pressure on the return circulation to your legs. The key is to get the fluids moving and to maximize the output of the kidneys. Edema can happen at any time during pregnancy, but it tends to begin around the fifth month and increase in the third trimester.
Moderate swelling is expected and normal in pregnancy as long as it is not accompanied by an increase in blood pressure and protein in the urine, which can be a sign of preeclampsia. Sudden or severe edema can also be a sign of this condition. If you experience these noticeable symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Here are a few tips for minimizing any swelling during pregnancy:
1. Put your feet up, and elevate your legs whenever possible. Try not to cross your legs, which only makes circulation more difficult. Any time you can, get off your feet; the blood can circulate better and not pool in the extremities.
2. Dress comfortably, and avoid wearing clothes that are too restrictive or too tight. That includes shoes that are comfortable and not tight or too high-heeled.
3. Wear supportive hose or stockings that are specifically designed for pregnancy. Make sure you are fitted correctly.
4. Avoid standing in one place for long periods of time. Move around to keep your blood circulating. Moderate exercise such as walking and stretching can be helpful.
5. Minimize your time outdoors if it is hot and humid.
6. Rest by lying on your left side as much as possible, and not just at night, but several times throughout the day for about thirty minutes.
7. Drink water and fluids, at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day, to help keep your kidneys functioning properly and help flush out retained fluids.
8. Don’t consume excessive amounts of sodium. Avoid adding salt to foods and eating too many salty snacks or heavily cured foods.
9. Visit your doctor regularly so she can monitor your blood pressure and severity of fluid retention.