What You Need To Know About Edema (Swollen Hands, Ankles and Feet) During Pregnancy

Editorial Team

Even with all the information you had before pregnancy you can never really anticipate or expect the symptoms you experience during this beautiful journey. While you are already dealing with a swollen tummy the last thing you want to deal with is the swelling of other parts of your body.

According to American Pregnancy, during pregnancy, the body produces approximately 50% more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of the developing baby. Swelling is a normal part of pregnancy that is caused by this additional blood and fluid. Normal swelling, which is also called Edema, is experienced in the hands, legs, ankles, and feet.

This extra retention of fluid is needed to soften the body, which enables it to expand as the baby develops. Extra fluid also helps prepare the pelvic joints and tissues to open for delivery. The extra fluids account for approximately 25% of the weight women gain during pregnancy. Swelling may be experienced at any point during pregnancy, but it tends to be noticed around the fifth month and can increase while you are in the third trimester.

The following factors may also affect swelling:

  • Hot weather
  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Long days of activity
  • Diet low in potassium
  • High level of caffeine consumption
  • High level of sodium intake

Slight swelling is expected during pregnancy; however, if you experience sudden swelling in your hands and your face, it could be a sign of pre-eclampsia.  It is important to contact your doctor about any sudden swelling.

Baby Center advises that to reduce swelling during pregnancy,

  • Put your feet up whenever possible.
  • Don't cross your legs or ankles while sitting.
  • Stretch your legs frequently while sitting.
  • Take regular breaks from sitting or standing. A short walk every so often will help keep your blood from pooling in your lower extremities.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that stretch to accommodate any swelling in your feet.
  • Don't wear socks or stockings that have tight bands around the ankles or calves.  
  • Try waist-high maternity support stockings.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Exercise regularly, especially by walking, swimming.
  • Eat well, and avoid junk food.
  • Sleep on your side.

According to Today’s Parents, Edema accompanied by certain other symptoms can signal more serious underlying problems. Be on the lookout for more swelling in one leg than the other, accompanied by pain, which can signal a possible blood clot. A headache that won’t go away, along with vision changes (like blurriness or sensitivity to light), can be signs of pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-specific high blood pressure), and swelling accompanied by chest pains or difficulty breathing could mean heart trouble.

When you  notice any form swelling during your pregnancy make sure you consult your doctor to make sure there is no underlining problem.