Swelling in pregnancy is one of those awful things that tend to happen in the third trimester. And ladies? I was the queen of swelling. After my first was born, I lost 35 POUNDS in TWO WEEKS of straight up water weight. My own mother called me the Michelin man.
Swelling, or edema, is very common. Especially in your feet and ankles since that is just another way that gravity could be working against you.
So what causes swelling in pregnancy?
There are a few different factors that can affect swelling in pregnancy. There is an increase in blood supply and volume, so you have more fluid in your body overall because of pregnancy.
Another reason could be the added pressure to your veins because of your growing uterus. This makes it even more difficult for the blood to return back up to your heart, and you then it creates that obnoxious swelling.
What can you do about it?
Well, you can have the baby. Joking. Sort of. There is no way to 100% rid yourself of swelling until your baby is born and that pressure from your uterus is gone. BUT there are ways to help with that swelling!
Quick note though: if your swelling appears very rapidly or you have other symptoms such as tunnel vision, a headache that won’t go away, or pain on the right side of your belly, call your doctor. Those could be signs of preeclampsia and that is life-threatening.
Actual picture of my feet before swelling and in the midst of it. This was before I started implementing these tips.
Reduce sitting or standing for too long
Either one can make a difference with your swelling. If you sit at a desk for work, make sure you are taking short 1-2 minute breaks every half hour or so to walk around. And when you are sitting, if you are able to prop your feet up, that will make a huge difference.
Same with standing. Find times to sit and prop your feet up to give yourself a chance for the swelling to go down a bit.
Avoid hot weather
Your body will work even harder to retain fluids when it is hot outside, so do your best to stay cool during the summer.
Increase water consumption
You may think, “But I obviously have a lot of fluid, the last thing that I want to do is INCREASE the amount of water in me.”
Oftentimes, your body works harder to retain water when it isn’t receiving enough water.
Think about it.
If you are sweating while exercising, that is usually a good sign that you are well hydrated. But if you aren’t sweating while physically exerting yourself, it’s probably because your body doesn’t want to part with the limited amount of water that it has.
While pregnant, you should be drinking AT LEAST half your weight in ounces of water EVERY DAY. So if you are 160 pounds, drink at least 80 oz. of water in a day. It’s good preparation for future nursing too, since being dehydrated will cause you to not produce very much milk.
Increase protein consumption
Another reason that you may have terrible swelling is because you don’t have enough protein in your diet. When I was pregnant with my first, my midwife told me that I should be having 75-80 oz of protein A DAY.
That was a wake up call for me since I was probably getting a measly 30 oz.
This doesn’t have to be hard though. Even whole wheat bread has a decent amount of protein in it per slice. You just have to make smart choices with your food, and then you will probably get the amount that you need.
I didn’t discover these until I was pregnant with my daughter (my second), and I wish I had found them beforehand! I don’t know about you, but when I am really swollen, I am actually in pain. The fluid presses up against the nerves in my skin, and I truly hurt.
Compression stockings help with this!
The key is to put them on in the morning before the swelling begins, and then wear them all day. You will find that they will help keep the swelling down and decrease any pain you might be having.
Compression stockings also help with possible blood clots, so make sure to wear them on long drives to help prevent both swelling AND clotting!
This shouldn’t be a surprise, but exercise helps to reduce swelling. Low-impact exercising, like swimming, will probably be the easiest for you, but if you can’t get to a pool, don’t avoid moving!
Even just a walk around the block every day will help to combat both excessive weight gain and uncomfortable swelling.
Salt in moderation
When you are increasing the amount of water you’re drinking, you need to make sure that you don’t get your electrolyte levels completely out of balance.
I’m not telling you to go eat a bag of potato chips, but choosing water options like Smart Water that have electrolytes added to them, or lightly salting your food, will also help to make a difference with your swelling.
Like I previously mentioned, nothing is 100% except for having the baby. But if you follow through with these tips, you should see a drastic reduction in your swelling in pregnancy!
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