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Swelling in pregnancy (also called edema of pregnancy) is a fairy common pregnancy symptom to expect, especially in the third trimester. You may notice slight swelling in your legs, feet, and ankles.

Some pregnant women also have swelling in their face and hands. Your swelling is often worse at the end of the day, or during humid days.

Causes of Pregnancy Edema (Swelling)

When you’re pregnant, you have extra fluid in your body, which allows your tissues to handle the growth of your developing baby. This extra fluid also prepares your pelvic area for the task of labor and delivery. A majority of the weight that you’ll gain during pregnancy is from this extra fluid.

Pregnancy swelling commonly affects your feet and ankles, because your expanding uterus adds pressure to the veins of your legs and feet. This slows blood circulation, making it hard for blood to return from your legs to your heart. As a result, it’s easier for fluid to build up in your ankles and feet.

Swelling in pregnancy is often worse when you have to stand or sit with your feet on the floor for long periods of time, since this increases pressure to those veins.

Fortunately, after you give birth, this pregnancy symptom will disappear pretty quickly. Your body no longer needs the excess fluid, so you’ll notice that you’ll experience frequent urination, and you’ll sweat quite a bit in the days following childbirth.

How to Relieve Pregnancy Swelling

Edema in pregnancy is a common pregnancy symptom. It’s normal to experience mild swelling. However, here are a few ways you can minimize the puffiness that you’re experiencing.

  • When you’re sitting, don’t cross your legs or ankles. This can hinder your blood circulation, and make pregnancy swelling worse.
  • Don’t sit or stand for an extended period of time. Take breaks. Even taking a short walk can help improve blood circulation and make this pregnancy symptom less of a nuisance.
  • If you have to sit for a long period of time – for work or whatever the case may be – you’ll want to stretch your legs frequently. Stretch out your leg, and gently flex your foot. Rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes.
  • Keep well hydrated. When you drink more, this helps your body retain less fluid and it will minimize swelling in pregnancy.
  • Avoid tight socks or stockings that constrict the area around your ankles or feet. This can make pregnancy edema worse. Consider wearing waist-high maternity support stockings. These actually improve blood circulation, and it may help with swelling in pregnancy.
  • Stay cool during the day. Heat can make swelling in pregnancy worse. You may want to apply cold-water compresses to any swollen areas.
  • Eat a healthy diet, and eliminate junk food from your diet. Salt can actually make water retention in pregnancy worse.

When to Talk to Your Doctor about Water Retention in Pregnancy

Water retention, or swelling in pregnancy, is a normal pregnancy symptom, but if you find that your swelling is severe, or it occurs suddenly (especially in your hands or around your eyes), you’ll want to contact your midwife or obstetrician. These can be signs of preeclampsia – a pregnancy complication marked by high blood pressure and fluid retention.

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