Oedema occurs when body fluids increase and accumulate in the mother’s tissues. During pregnancy, swelling is caused due to water retention in the body. Matters are made worse owing to increased blood flow and pressure of the growing uterus on the pelvic veins and the vena cava. This causes mothers to experience more swelling – particularly swollen ankles and feet, and sometime hands. Mothers might also develop new fat in the feet region if their weight gain has been substantial or too quick.
Oedema increases during the late months of pregnancy, especially if the mother is carrying multiples or has excessive amniotic fluid in her womb.
Some simple ways in which oedema or feet swelling can be averted:
- Avoid long periods of standing or sitting. If you’re on your feet a lot, take breaks and have a seat. If you’re sitting down a lot, take a five-minute stroll at least once an hour.
- Kick up your feet. If possible, elevate your legs when you are sitting.
- Once a while, stretch the legs – leg out, heel first, and then gently flex the foot and stretch the calf muscles.
- Also, rotate the ankles and wiggle the toes.
- Don’t cross your legs or ankles while sitting.
- Sleep on your side. If you don’t already, try sleeping on your side –preferably your left.
- Try to do some pregnancy-appropriate exercise, such as walking (which keeps the blood flowing instead of pooling) or swimming. But ask an expert first.
- Avoid tight elastic-top socks or stockings as they can constrict blood flow
- Wear comfortable shoes. Especially while you’re out on a walk or stroll. Once home, switch to a pair of soft slippers.
- Drink lots of water. Eight to ten glasses of water a day will help rid the body of excess sodium and other waste products, minimising swelling.
Remember that mild swelling of the ankles and feet caused by oedema is harmless and perfectly normal. It is a temporary condition that goes away after delivery.
However if hands and / or face become puffy or if swelling persists for more than a day at a time and doesn’t improve overnight, consult a doctor.
Excessive swelling in one leg, especially accompanied with pain or tenderness in the calf or thigh could signal a blood clot. In such a case a doctor’s counsel must be sought.
Excessive swelling can also be one sign of preeclampsia. In that case, other symptoms like elevated blood pressure, rapid weight gain and protein in the urine would also show up. This would need immediate attention.