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Swollen Feet in Pregnancy

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Back Pain and Pregnancy: Swollen Feet in Pregnancy

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Swollen Feet in Pregnancy

Swollen feet seem like an unfair jab toward the end of pregnancy. You have heartburn, you visit the bathroom multiple times each night, your baby is poking and prodding from the inside, you can’t get up without grunting, even your maternity clothes are looking too small, oh and by the way……….now your feet are too swollen to fit into the last vestige of your former wardrobe. (My wife’s words.)

Swollen feet and ankles are an annoyance for some and, for a few, very painful. Most of my pregnant patients ask about the swelling and a few have shown up in the winter wearing flip flops. So here goes:

What causes the swelling?
Edema is the medical term for an increase of fluid within the tissues of the body. In pregnancy, edema occurs because the volume of blood in the body doubles. (That extra volume of blood is needed to nourish your baby) This extra fluid needs to go somewhere, and gravity does its job. Now, there are a few more factors at play here. Increased weight gain and our friend relaxin (which allows the bones to more easily spread) complete the perfect storm.

What can you do?
Edema from pregnancy is temporary and it most cases fairly benign. That doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying, so, here are some things you can do to cope in the meantime:
  • Put your feet up periodically during the day. If you work at a computer, see if it is feasible to rest your feet on an adjacent chair.

  • Drink plenty of water and don’t cut down on salt. The body has a very delicate balance between sodium and water, and cutting down on either can actually make swelling worse.
  • Don’t cross your legs. Compressing blood flow will make the swelling worse.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Sorry, no heels!
    It is okay to wear your regular shoes (some women say that the compression actually eases the ache) but be warned, that once you take the shoes off…they aren’t going back on until the next morning.

    If you feel more comfortable in a larger size, make sure the shoes are low heeled, and supportive. Go shoe shopping in the evening when your feet are the most swollen!
  • Do foot exercises. Scrunch your toes up for a count of five and then relax. Do heel lifts.

  • Make your husband rub your feet!

Your swelling should be a distant memory within a week or two after delivery. However, it is common for feet to stay a half size bigger after pregnancy.

*If you notice swelling in places other than your feet and ankles (especially in your face) or very sudden swelling, see your doctor immediately. This can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

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