5 Tips for Dealing with Swelling During Pregnancy

Written by Kim, Contributing Writer
If you are anything like me, you probably look at the “it’s all in my belly” pregnant women and think (as you stare down at your non-existent ankles) how is that even possible? I can remember coming home from work every day toward the end of my pregnancy and barely being able to bend my feet!

Even though it is common to experience some swelling during your pregnancy, you shouldn’t have to suffer through it without remedy. The swelling in your extremities during pregnancy is caused by the pressure your growing uterus puts on your veins, most notably the vena cava, slowing the return of blood from your extremities. This causes the blood to pool and forces fluid into your hands, feet and ankles. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help relieve the swelling and keep your ankles to a (somewhat) existent state.

Be Conscious of Your Positions
It may come as second nature, and you probably don’t even realize you are doing it, but don’t cross your legs or ankles while sitting. Doing so will make it even more difficult for the blood to return back from your legs, increasing the amount of swelling. Also, try lying on your left side when resting.
The vena cava is located on your right side, so lying on the opposite side will help relieve some of the additional pressure being put on the vena cava by your uterus. For me, the left side just felt better throughout my pregnancy – I suppose it was my body’s way of saying, “yes, this is helping!”

Put Those Feet Up
I think the saying “take a load off” must have come from a pregnant woman. Truth is, especially in the third trimester, we are carrying around a decent amount of weight – weight that our body is not used to supporting. This adds to the stress on our legs and ankles and can cause swelling and stiffness.
As often as you can, put your feet up. This will help lessen the amount of fluid in your feet and ankles by making it easier for the blood to circulate back up from your legs.  I worked my entire pregnancy, up until the week before delivery. In my office, I took an extra small trash bin, flipped it upside down and brought a small blanket to make it soft to rest my feet on.

Stretch and Exercise Regularly
Being active during your pregnancy is good all around – it can help to make labor and delivery easier, shorten recovery time after delivery and maintain good circulation. If you weren’t running 5 miles a day before your pregnancy, now is no time to start – but you can do some easier exercises like walking or swimming (BONUS: going in a pool can help to temporarily reduce swelling!).
If you’re in an office all day for work, stretch your legs throughout the day and try to take a short walk. It can be hard to remember, especially if you’re really busy, but try to set some time aside every day. In the last two months of my pregnancy, I scheduled 10 minutes on my calendar every morning and every afternoon so I would make sure I took two walks around the building every day.

Break out the Granny Stockings
Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, and there are such amazing maternity clothes out there, but I hate to break it to you – waist-high compression stockings are a life saver. Okay, so they are not attractive, flattering or cute but they work.
By keeping a tight, yet tolerable compression on your legs, ankles, and feet these stockings will minimize swelling by not allowing the blood to pool at your feet. Put them on first thing in the morning (maybe even before you get out of bed if your swelling is as bad as mine was!) to avoid letting the blood start to pool.

Drink Water
I know it sounds counterproductive – if you are retaining water why should you drink more, right? Well, drinking more water will send a signal to your body to release extra fluids, so the more water you drink, the more fluids are released.
Drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day to help counteract swelling and limit your intake of sodium as it contributes to fluid retention. I’m not much of a water drinker, so I would fill up my 16 oz. water bottle in the morning and drink the entire thing on my way to work. I’d then make sure to drink another full bottle before lunch, one after lunch and one on my way home. That way I reached by 64 oz. every day (if not more).
Hang in there, swelling can definitely be a pain but even just one or two of the tips above can help alleviate some discomfort. Remember, if you have any pain or tenderness in your leg or notice uneven, excessive or sudden swelling call your doctor or midwife as this may be a more serious condition.

Kim is a mother, wife, marketing consultant, designer and creator of mamatea - a line of herbal loose leaf teas uniquely developed for preconception, pregnancy, postpartum and nursing. When not blending teas, developing marketing plans or creating handmade cards and invitations she is enjoying time with her wonderful husband and beautiful toddler outdoors in the beautiful Utah mountains. To learn more about Kim or her work visit

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