Swollen feet and ankles during pregnancy

Swollen feet, hands and ankles are a common occurrence during many pregnancies. The medical term for this swelling is edema, which basically means an increase of fluid in an organ. Swelling of the feet or ankles is usually associated with the second half of a pregnancy, though many mothers of twins report it happening earlier on.

Swelling happens because the body produces up to 50% more body fluid and blood during pregnancy. While you might disagree, this extra fluid is actually a good thing as it helps to prepare the body’s joints and tissue for the stresses of labor. All of that extra fluid can also be blamed for about 20% of weight gained during pregnancy.

Swelling occurs most often in the lower extremities because the growing uterus and baby exert pressure on the pelvic veins. This pressure slows blood circulation from the feet, which in turn causes fluid to form in the tissue of the feet and ankles.

How to alleviate the swelling

  • Elevate your feet while resting
  • Stay off your feet as much as possible
  • When sitting or laying for long periods, try to get up and walk around every now and then
  • Drink water as it will help to lessen the amount of water retained by your body
  • Wear lose fitting shoes or slippers and avoid tight socks, stocking or shoes
    Try to minimize the amount of salt in your diet

Cause for concern?

While some swelling of the feet and hands is fairly common during pregnancy, it can also be associated with preeclampsia which is a very serious condition. Always alert your doctor to any changes to your health especially if you experience any of the following.

  • Swelling in the face or puffiness around the eyes
  • Sudden or excessive swelling of the feet, hands or ankles
  • One leg seems more swollen than the other
  • You experience any pain in the area of your thigh or calf