Swelling Feet During Pregnancy: Reasons, Treatments, and More

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feet swelling during pregnancy

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Pregnancy is a magical time accompanied by numerous changes that take place in the body. This “magically” journey as one says through the trimesters, however, comes with its own shares of experiences that reflect through the process. One such is the swelling, especially via swollen feet. An utterly discomforting experience, all thanks to the increase in the blood volume.

Do not worry as we take it upon us to list down relief methods and facts behind your feet swelling during pregnancy. Let’s unravel them together, shall we?

So, Why Is Your Feet Swelling During Pregnancy?

There are multiple reasons that result in the swelling of the body and feet during pregnancy. One such common cause is the physiological changes when there’s a little human growing inside you. The volume of the blood increases as you process in your pregnancy journey.

Technically, this increase in the blood volume is known as plasma osmolality. The increased volume is the water which is why it is hard for it to stay entirely within the blood vessels. Some of it leaks into the nearby tissues that causes the feet and body to swell.

When Do Your Feet Swell During Pregnancy?

Body swelling during pregnancy can start at any time, even during your postpartum recovery phase. Commonly, it occurs in the 3rd trimester between the 28th and 42nd week. Swelling of feet during pregnancy can occur in each stage of the journey and may not be solely caused by increasing blood volume.

Let’s check out what happens to the body during each trimester to figure out how to reduce swelling in the feet during pregnancy!

  • First Trimester

If you are a newly pregnant mum and have just discovered that your stilettos no longer fit, swollen feet might not be the suspect at all. Your foot size must have increased because of the release of relaxin – the pregnancy hormone. This hormone works to loosen your pelvis for childbirth. However, it isn’t pelvic-specific as it relaxes and stretches all the joints, tendons, and ligaments of your body, including your feet.

The Pro pregnancy or pro gestation period is when progesterone (another pregnancy hormone) which is released in your body. This slows your body’s digestive power and leads to bloating and a bit of puffiness in your face, feet, and hands. If you notice a lot of sudden swelling in your hands and feet during your pregnancy’s first trimester, accompanied by symptoms like bleeding, headaches, or dizziness, make sure to consult your doctor.

Adding on, sudden swelling in the feet during pregnancy could be a symptom of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood clots are the common signs of DVT and if left untreated it is fatal. The affected area could seem warm, red, swollen, and painful. Studies have estimated that pregnancy ups the risk of DVT by 5 times so check out for the symptoms and get immediate medical attention.

  • Second Trimester

At 14 weeks, you have entered your 2nd trimester. This could be the first time your feet seem swollen and your shoes start feeling a bit tight. Fluid retention (medically called edema) in the lower parts of the body is the culprit here. As the day goes on, if you have been on your feet for a long time, your shoes might seem tighter than they were in the morning.

It is estimated that your blood volume increased by 50% during your pregnancy. Fluid retention could cause pain, tingling, and heaviness in your body and feet. This is normal and it means that your body is doing exactly what it needs to do; prepare you for childbirth. Rest assured, the extra fluid will decrease rapidly after your baby is delivered.

  • Third Trimester

You enter the third trimester of pregnancy in your 28th week. As the week goes by and you are closer to your 40th week, you will notice your feet have swollen way more than ever. Your toes will now look like tiny sausages as your body continues building its supply of fluids and blood.

Even your uterus will feel heavy as your little human grows which slows down blood flow to the legs and heart. Sounds dangerous? It’s not because that’s how the body functions when you are pregnant. You can feel the compress on your vein when you lie on your back as your plasma expands.

Following birth, you will lose this fluid even though it can be challenging. The fluid can be lost through night sweating and frequent urination (annoying business, yes).

11 Steps To Reduce Swelling in Feet During Pregnancy: Massages, Swimming, Cold Drinks, and More!

While most swelling of the feet during pregnancy is normal, it might feel uncomfortable. We have brought to you tips to relieve the itchiness to give you a comfortable ride throughout your pregnancy.

Read on to know what the 11 magic tips are!

1. Regular Exercise

Gentle exercises such as swimming or walking regularly can increase circulation in the body. This will help in easing stubborn swelling.

Here’s an exercise to flush some fluid from the lower parts of your body:

  • Lay on your back on a flat surface near a wall.
  • Put up your hip against the wall and stretch your feet and legs up on it.
  • Pump both your feet up and down for a couple of minutes.

But once you are in your third trimester, you should not spend a long time laying on your back. It could make your uterus compress the inferior vena cava which could impact your baby’s health.

Going for a 5 to 10-minute walk twice a day can significantly boost your circulation. While walking, remember to wear comfortable shoes. Ill-fit shoes could increase the swelling of the feet and lead to back and hip problems. You need to maintain your center of gravity steadily as your weight increases.

 When it comes to swimming during pregnancy, no studies have shown that water pressure reduces swelling. Nevertheless, many find relief when they spend more time in the pool. If not swimming you could try standing in the pool where the water is up to your neck. It will help you feel cooler and lighter.

2. Reduce Salt Intake

Salt (sodium) makes your body hold onto extra fluid. Avoid foods that are processed or canned as they are super high in salt. Also, no extra salt on your table! Use savory herbs in your dishes such as oregano, thyme, and rosemary to add flavor and zest with no salt. Follow a diet of fresh vegetables and fruits along with proteins and lean meats to steer clear of salt.

3. Increase Potassium Intake

Insufficient potassium can worsen the swelling because it is a mineral that balances the body fluids. Prenatal vitamins contain potassium but it’s equally important to consume good sources of dietary potassium.

Here is some potassium-rich food that you could include in your diet during pregnancy:

  • Lentils
  • Salmon
  • Beets
  • Yogurt
  • Passionfruit
  • Carrots
  • Oranges
  • Pomegranate
  • Prune
  • Beans
  • Spinach
  • Bananas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes

4. Reduce Caffeine Intake

That occasional cup of coffee is not harmful but too much caffeine can worsen the swelling and it is also considered not-so-good for the baby. Caffeine is a diuretic which means you gotta pee more. Frequent urination can make your body think that it needs to hold on to more fluids leading to edema. Try a herbal tea like peppermint or a decaf coffee with milk to help give you that little boost of energy.

5. Sleep on Your Left Side

Sleeping on your left side improves blood flow which reduces the swelling of your feet. This sleeping position takes off the weight of the uterus from the inferior vena cava (the large blood vessel that returns blood to your heart). This is important because it affects the baby’s health too. Adopt the best positions to sleep while you are pregnant as it improves your body’s well-being.

6. Wear Compression Socks

These socks or stockings are for you if you need to be on your feet most of the time or if you have persistently swollen feet. These gently squeeze your legs and feet which keeps the fluids circulating. Avoid knee-high compression stockings and go for waist-high ones as they are not too tight on the middle of your leg.

7. Stay Hydrated

No, more water doesn’t mean more fluid retention. It’s the exact opposite: water reduces edema or the swelling of the feet. You need to make your body feel that it has enough hydration so that it doesn’t hold on to extra fluids. So try to drink at least 12 glasses of water every day. This will help your kidneys flush out the toxins and keep your body hydrated and happy.

Drinking water might seem daunting but what if you have a cute cup that you will want to refill now and then? Or better get a giant water bottle that shows how much water you have had throughout the day. You can even add berries, mint, or lemon to make it more enjoyable.

8. Elevate Your Feet

Try to rest those tired feet whenever possible. Amidst a million things for the arrival of your baby, take some time out for your feet as standing or sitting all the time isn’t great for your beautiful pregnant body’s circulation. Put up your feet at a height so that the fluids retained in your feet throughout the day are drained.

9. Take an Epsom Salt Bath

Epsom salts also called magnesium sulfate help in drawing out toxins from your body and reducing inflammation. However, there are no scientific theories to support these claims. You could try soaking in an Epsom salt bath for 15 minutes and see if it brings any relief (as some have claimed). Make sure your bath is below or at 100 Fahrenheit to avoid increasing your body temperature.

10. Get a Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage is the best way to involve your partner in your pregnancy journey.  Massages (especially lymphatic drainage massages) help in circulating the extra fluids in your feet so grab a bottle of water and put your feet up while your partner is gently massaging your feet. You may use lavender or peppermint essential oil to make the session even more relaxing. Several massage studios offer prenatal massages too so you can take a day out to bust your pregnancy stress.

11. Stay Cool

If your pregnancy months are those scorching heat summer months, you need to stay indoors during the day. Avoid vigorous exercise because your body needs to be hydrated and cool. Put cold compresses on your feet or keep a fan nearby if your feet are too hot.

Even your clothing needs to be cool, loose, and comfortable so that you don’t sweat out. Wearing tight clothing, especially around your ankles, waist, and wrists can worsen the swelling as it restricts your blood flow. Avoid anything with an elastic band and go for flowy cardigans and maternity dresses. And if it’s winter you could try sweaters with joggers.

The Bottom Line: When Should You Call a Doctor About Swelling Feet During Pregnancy?

Feet swelling during pregnancy is normal but they are also a sign of preeclampsia or high blood pressure. It is accompanied by liver or kidney damage or protein in urine and occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to the CDC, 1 in 25 women experiences preeclampsia. Sudden swelling is a common symptom of the condition so when you notice one get in touch with a doctor. DVT is another condition that causes the feet to swell. Check the symptoms and make an appointment if you suspect anything unusual.

Swelling Feet During Pregnancy FAQs:

1. Do feet swelling during pregnancy mean labor?

Leg cramps are a sign of active labor (the stage where you experience regular and strong contractions). Swelling of the feet during pregnancy is common but in some cases, it could be a sign of preeclampsia. Get in touch with a medical officer if you suspect the same.

2. Is hot or cold water better for swollen feet?

When you have pain in your legs due to standing or walking for long hours, you can try to ease the pain by soaking your legs and feet in cold water. The cold water helps in constricting your blood vessels that reduce the inflammatory chemical mediators of swelling.

3. When do you start swelling in pregnancy?

Swelling feet during pregnancy can start any time during the journey. Most women experience it during their second trimester and continue experiencing it till childbirth.

4. Why do your feet swell in the 3rd trimester?

Swollen during pregnancy is due to the accumulation of fluid in your tissues typically in your feet, legs, and ankles (occasionally in the hands and face). This condition is called edema and is a normal occurrence during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy.

5. What foods to avoid when you have swollen feet?

To reduce body swelling you must avoid packages of sweets, potato chips, and fast food. They contain sources of sodium that could alleviate the pain. Even canned food, sauces, and condiments contain minute amounts of sodium so get into a bloat-free diet of vegetables and fruits.

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