by Virginia B. Hargrove
Your body and growing baby need more fluid during pregnancy. The extra blood and water provide your baby with nutrients and a protective home. It helps your tissues soften and expand as the baby gets bigger. The fluids also loosen your joints as your body prepares for birth.
Your body makes about 50 percent more fluids during pregnancy. These extra fluids account for about 25 percent of the weight you're expected to gain.
With all that extra fluid around, it's no surprise that swelling is a normal part of pregnancy. You might notice puffiness at any time, but many moms-to-be first notice swelling around the fifth month. It can increase during the third trimester.
What Causes Pregnancy Swelling?
Not only do you have more fluid now that you're pregnant, but your growing uterus puts pressure on your veins. This impairs the return of blood to your heart and can lead to swelling in your legs, ankles and feet.
Some experts think that hormonal changes might play a role as well. These factors can contribute to uncomfortable pregnancy swelling:
- Warm summer weather
- Standing for longer periods of time
- Busy, active days
- Diets low in potassium
- Drinking lots of coffee or other caffeine-containing beverages
- Excessive salt intake
Contact your midwife or doctor about any sudden swelling. While some swelling is expected during pregnancy, sudden swelling in your hands and face could be a sign of preeclampsia.
Soothing Swelling and Summer Discomforts
Here are some helpful hints for managing swelling during your pregnancy:
• Drink plenty of water. It seems backwards, but staying hydrated and drinking lots of water helps ease swelling. Limit caffeine and highly sweetened drinks.
• Eat foods that are high in potassium like bananas, almonds, melons and avocados. Potassium helps keep your body's water levels balanced.
• Sleep on your left side. It might help to elevate your feet during the night, too. If convincing them to stay on a pillow isn't working, place a firm pillow between your box spring and mattress for elevation.
• Take lots of breaks. When you're seated for long periods of time, get up and walk around, even if it's just down the hall or around your desk. if you're standing, sit down and put your feet up for a few minutes.
• Limit salty foods like potato chips and pickles that can cause water retention.
• Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Tight-fighting pants can restrict blood flow from your feet and legs. Elastic at your wrists might cause your hands to swell. Check your socks for tight cuffs.
Smart Tips for Swollen Legs and Feet
Leg and foot swelling is common in the last half of pregnancy. If you're trying to fit those cankles into your favorite pair of shoes, try these tips to soothe swelling and minimize misery:
• When you sit, put your feet up. Try to raise your feet higher than your heart.
• Pop your feet in a tub of cool water. Not only does it cool them down, but it can relieve swelling.
• Do foot exercises. Bend and stretch your foot up and down 20 or 30 times. Rotate your foot in a circle 10 times in one direction, then the other direction. Repeat with the other foot.
• Wear comfortable shoes. Think comfort when shopping for shoes. Your feet might feel better in a size or two larger than normal, especially in the afternoon.
• Go for a walk during the cool part of the day. Regular exercise helps your body pump fluid out of your legs and back to your heart.
Hot, pregnant and puffy can be a miserable combination. What's helped you stay comfortable in the summer?