Most of the changes your body undergoes during pregnancy are normal, healthy, and expected. Some effects of pregnancy may cause you temporary discomfort, but many of these common discomforts can be prevented or relieved by simple measures.
When pregnant, you obviously expect your stomach to get bigger. To see your feet and ankles increasing in size, however, might be a surprise. Turns out it’s actually extremely common to experience swelling during pregnancy, especially in women who have had several children. Water retention or ‘bloating’ is usually a result of increasing hormone levels which cause you to retain more fluid than you would normally.
Fluid retention, swelling or ‘oedema’ affects about 65% of healthy pregnant women with normal blood pressure. Oedema is basically the medical term for swelling of tissue. Fluid circulates through the lymphatic system filtering fluid from the blood through the tissues, bringing nutrients in and eliminating toxins. The lymphatic system is a network throughout the whole body. Fluid retention occurs when the fluid isn’t removed from the tissues and skin. While it can occur at any time in the pregnancy, it more commonly happens in the last 3 months of the pregnancy. This is because by about 32 weeks, the blood circulating in the woman’s body has increased by up to 50%, contributing to swelling or fluid retention.
Many women find that just their ankles and feet swell as their pregnancy progresses. This swelling can be caused by the increasing pressure an enlarging uterus puts on the veins that carry blood from the legs to the heart. To help improve the circulation in your legs, try to lie down and put your feet on a raised pillow several times throughout the day, or sit with your feet elevated as often as possible. Limiting salt in your diet may also be helpful.Salt affects your kidneys and blood pressure. Too much sodium dehydrates the cells which makes your body retain more water. The sodium in salt makes your kidneys hold on to water instead of excreting it.
Symptoms include swelling of body parts such as feet, hands and ankles, a feeling of stiffness or aching and weight fluctuations, and is generally more noticeable by the end of the day, although it may be worse on hot days, after a plane trip or if you are on your feet for long periods of time.
You may notice any jewellery you wear becoming tighter, sometimes making it necessary to take rings off until after your baby is born. Some women notice their feet increasing by 1/2 to 1 shoe size.
Drinking plenty of water and other clear fluids will begin to assist help clear up any fluid retention. The more your body feels it is not getting enough fluid, for whatever reason, the more it holds on to it — so drinking more water can help to reduce the swelling. Aim to drink at least two litres a day.
NOTE:Tell your doctor about any discomfort, pain, or symptoms you are experiencing, no matter how minor they may seem to you.
Luckily there are a number of different ways to help reduce the effects of Oedema during your pregnancy, and some of these include:
In recognition of us all being individuals and each having different bodies and therefore differing health requirements, all information provided is a general recommendation only and not a prescription. All health related information and subsequent questions must be followed up with your own physician.