Magazines and movies make it seem like pregnancy is all about that “radiant glow.” But, pregnancy comes with some very strange and difficult changes. And, swollen hands and feet happen to be one of those changes. They can make moving around difficult and getting through the day extremely frustrating.
Although swollen feet and hands are common during pregnancy, you don’t have to live with them. And, before we discuss just how you can beat the swelling, it’s important to understand what causes it to begin with.
What Causes Swollen Legs During Pregnancy?
The most common cause of swollen feet during pregnancy is edema.1 It affects the hands, face, legs, ankles, and feet. Just as how your belly grows in size to accommodate your growing baby, the body produces 50% more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of the baby. This is what causes the swelling.
Fluid retention is important to soften the body and help it expand. It also prepares the pelvic joints and tissues for delivery. To add to this, fluid retention accounts for approximately 25% of the weight that women gain during pregnancy.
Although you might experience edema at any time during your pregnancy, it is most common during the fifth month. And, edema might not be the only cause swollen legs during pregnancy. Other causes of this condition include
- Excessive heat or sun exposure
- Standing for too long
- Too much exertion
- Potassium deficiency
- Excessive coffee intake
- Excessive sodium intake.
If you’re looking to beat the annoyance of swollen feet, then knowing what causes them is half the battle won. Here are a few ways by which you can do this.2
Ways To Treat Swollen Legs During Pregnancy
1. Reduce Your Salt Intake
Excessive sodium intake is one of the biggest culprits of fluid retention. And, eating foods low in salt will help reduce the symptoms of edema. If you’re on diuretics, do consult your doctor on how much salt you should be having.3
2. Get A Foot Massage
You don’t need a reason to pamper yourself. But, a trip to the spa might just be what you need to ease your swollen legs. A study conducted in Turkey found that women who were given a foot massage daily for 20 minutes had lower symptoms of edema than those who didn’t.
However, if you do decide to try this method, be sure to find a professional who specializes in massages that relieve edema. It’s also important to remember that since the research for this technique is based on a few studies, it might not be the best way for you to get relief from swollen feet.4
3. Stay Hydrated
We’re constantly being told how we should drink lots of water to stay healthy. During pregnancy, it’s especially important to keep up with the recommend water intake since this reduce water retention. So, do ensure that you’re having at least 8–10 glasses of water a day.5 6
4. Up Your Nutrient Intake
Vitamins A, B, C, E as well as iron play a vital role in managing edema. You could either increase your intake of the foods mentioned above, or opt for supplements.
Foods rich in B vitamins and iron include dark leafy greens and sea vegetables. Vitamin A rich foods include broccoli, carrots, and squash. For vitamin C, good sources include citrus fruits and bell peppers. And, foods rich in vitamin E include almonds, avocado, and leafy vegetables. However, if you do go for the latter, be sure to consult a medical professional first.7
5. Get Comfortable
An easy way to relieve the discomfort caused by edema is to avoiding causing strain to your legs. So, try and avoid standing for too long. When you do rest, make sure to keep your feet elevated.
This “comfort” principle applies to what you wear as well. Opt for loose-fitting clothes and avoid wearing anything that’s too tight around the ankles. Wear comfortable shoes that let your feet breathe and avoid high heels.
Lastly, since heat aggravates edema, do make sure to avoid the amount of time you spend outside the house on sunny and hot days. These few tips will help you beat edema. And, all you need to do is get comfortable.8
6. Switch Up Your Diet
In addition to increasing your nutrient intake, a change in diet might aid in reducing edema. Opt for natural diuretics (which flush out excess water and sodium from the body) like asparagus, parsley, beets, grapes, green beans, leafy greens, pineapple, pumpkin, onion, leeks, and garlic. If you’re already taking water pills, do consult a professional since these foods might interact with medications.
Additionally, opt for antioxidant foods such as blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers. Besides this, ditch refined foods, processed foods (with trans fatty acids) and red meats. Instead, opt for lean cuts, fish, tofu, beans, and whole grains. Lastly, avoid tobacco since it might aggravate edema.9
7. Try Alternative Therapy
There is a little research to back the benefits of certain types of alternative therapies for edema. These include dry skin brushing, contrast hydrotherapy, and acupuncture. However, it’s important to find professionals for each of these techniques. It’s also important to consult your doctor before you opt for any of these procedures.
Apart from the solutions above, regular exercise, certain herbs (bilberry, dandelion, and grapeseed extract) might relieve swelling in legs. But, as with anything else, be sure to consult a professional before opting for either of the two.10
While slight swelling is normal during pregnancy, sudden onset of swelling might indicate preeclampsia. Additionally, excessive fluid retention might be a sign of toxemia. Both these conditions are dangerous for you and your baby, so if you suspect that the swelling in your feet isn’t natural, do consult a professional at the earliest.11
|↑1||Edema. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2, ↑8, ↑11||Swelling During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑3, ↑7, ↑9, ↑10||Edema. University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).|
|↑4||Çoban, Ayden, and Ahsen Şirin. “Effect of foot massage to decrease physiological lower leg oedema in late pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial in Turkey.” International journal of nursing practice 16, no. 5 (2010): 454-460.|
|↑5||Swelling During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑6||Montgomery, Kristen S. “Nutrition column an update on water needs during pregnancy and beyond.” The Journal of perinatal education 11, no. 3 (2002): 40.|