Why does swelling (edema) occur?
During pregnancy, our bodies produce about 50% more blood and fluids for our growing baby. This extra fluid can cause swelling in the hands and face, but more often will occur in the lower extremities, especially in the third trimester, when the uterus puts pressure on the veins of the legs. Extra fluid accounts for about 25% of the weight gained during pregnancy. Edema can be exacerbated by high caffeine and salt intakes, and by diets low in potassium. Occupations that require prolonged standing may also cause swelling to worsen.
What reduces swelling?
- Avoid standing for long periods of time
- Apply a cold compress on swollen areas
- Elevate your feet as often as possible
- Avoid tight clothing on wrists and ankles
- Wear comfortable shoes (minimize high heels!)
- Talk to your doctor or midwife about support stockings
- Avoid prolonged heat exposure
- Exercise regularly
- Exercising in water, like in our Prenatal AquaFit classes, is a great way to help alleviate swelling. Click here for more benefits!
- Stay well hydrated
- Limit sodium intake
When should I be concerned?
If you experience a sudden swelling of the face and hands, this could be a sign of preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy). If you begin to experience pain in your wrists this could be edema induced carpal tunnel syndrome. If you are concerned, speak with your healthcare provider.
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