Swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face.

The swelling, also known as edema, that happens during pregnancy, is a very common occurrence, and usually not a cause for worry.

The swelling, also known as edema, that happens during pregnancy, is a very common occurrence, and usually not a cause for worry.

The swelling, also known as edema,  that happens during pregnancy, is a very common occurrence, and usually not a cause for worry. A little gradual swelling in your fingers, legs, ankles, and feet throughout pregnancy is part of the journey.

What causes swelling during pregnancy?

  • During pregnancy, the total body water volume can increase by up to 8 litres
  • Some of the water stays within your cells to help them function. The rest accumulates outside of your cells to enhance oxygen delivery, clear waste, and control electrolyte flow.
  • At the same time, the plasma volume also increases by 30% –  50% which means that the total blood volume in the body increases as well.
  • The increase in plasma is in response to the growing needs of the placenta and your maternal organs, as your blood volume increases to deliver all that your baby needs to develop.
  • The massive increase in body fluids during pregnancy is coupled with increasing sodium levels. Sodium affects how your body absorbs and processes water.

What are the symptoms of normal pregnancy swelling?

  • Swelling in the fingers, legs, ankles and face
  • You may find that the swelling tends to worsen toward the end of the day. This is because the extra fluid in your body can gather in the parts of your body farthest from your heart. 
  • A hotter, humid day or a lot of standing can contribute to some normal swelling, too.
  • In the third trimester, more pressure from your little one’s growing size may also further affect blood flow in your legs, ankles, and feet, causing you to experience even more swelling.

Are there ways to relieve normal pregnancy swelling?

  • Try and keep your feet elevated at a level above your heart whenever possible, as this helps the fluid circulate back to your heart.
  • Drink more water to flush extra fluid and sodium out of your body.
  • Wear compression stockings to improve circulation, especially if you’re taking a long flight.
  • Avoid being outdoors in very hot and humid weather.
  • Take frequent breaks to elevate your feet when standing for long periods.
  • Avoid heels and wear comfortable, breathable, and supportive shoes.
  • Limit high salt foods, such as prepackaged meals, fast food, and chips.
  • Do foot exercises sitting or standing to improve blood circulation, reduce swelling in the ankles, and prevent cramp in the calf muscles.

What are the symptoms of swelling that could be of concern?

  • Preeclampsia: 
    • Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys
    • If you experience sudden or gradually worsening swelling in your face, around your eyes, or in your hands accompanied by high blood pressure, call your doctor immediately. 
    • Preeclampsia requires immediate treatment to protect you and baby.
  • Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) :
    • A rare but serious condition that may arise during pregnancy.
    • Leads to formation of blood clots usually in the leg but can occur in the thigh, or pelvis as well.
    • If swelling affects only one leg and is accompanied by pain, redness, or warmth you should call your doctor.
    • It warrants immediate treatment, as it may cause a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be fatal.

Conclusion

Normal swelling or edema can peak in the third trimester, affecting the legs mostly. While swelling may not be avoidable you can do different things to make yourself more comfortable. In rarer cases, swelling is a sign of something more serious and consult your doctor immediately if you see the symptoms.


Special thanks to Dr Anand Nanavati (MBBS , DNB ( obstetrics and gynaecology ) , MRCOG ( UK ) ,Specialist in IVF and infertility) for expert advice

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