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Reducing Swelling During Pregnancy: How To Relieve Pain in Legs, Feet, Ankles, and Hands

Swelling during pregnancy is certainly a normal and expected event: around 25% of the weight you gain will be due to increased fluids in your body. Swelling takes place as part of the birth preparation—think about it: you’re making room for a baby, filling up the amniotic sac with cushioning fluid, circulating more blood and moving nutrients around, and getting ready for lactation. No wonder your outline is getting a little blurry!

What Causes Swelling During Pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant, your body increases its supply of blood and other fluids by half again as much as it usually makes, softening and preparing the joints for childbirth. A lot of liquid surrounds the baby, but you’ll also notice changes in your feet and ankles, fingers and hands. Swollen fingers are a normal part of pregnancy starting around the fifth month, and by Baby‘s birth day, you may feel something like a water balloon—but that’s a good thing! Your puffy little body will make it somewhat easier to deliver—and isn’t that ‘swell’!

Still, fluid retention can make you uncomfortable; some women experience pain in their legs and backs which can be lessened by easing up on lifestyle choices that increase fluid retention. If you’re looking for ways to reduce swelling, employ some of the following strategies:

How to Reduce Swelling

  • Cut down on salt, which causes your body to retain water.
  • Avoid junk food, which is high in salt and fat and low in vitamins and fiber
  • Drink lots of water (8, 8-ounce glasses a day is minimal!)
  • Rest your feet and legs by spending some rest time each day with your feet up.
  • Avoid caffeine, which can be dehydrating
  • Eat foods rich in potassium—like bananas, dried fruit or nuts
  • In summertime heat, stay cool. Spend time in the swimming pool, or in air-conditioned places
  • Use cold compresses on swollen areas
  • Get adequate exercise, to aid in circulation and keep your weight steadyv

 Drinking plenty of water is key in staying healthy whether you’re pregnant or not, but when you’re expecting, it’s even more important because you need more liquids for your body to work properly. Drinking water, in ways utterly mysterious to most of us, helps flush out the body and decreases water retention! So, keep a glass nearby—or even a pitcher.

Aside from actually reducing swelling, there are some things you can do to stay more comfortable, even as your body attempts to hold onto every bit of moisture it can find. Wearing loose clothing, leaving off rings and watches, sporting comfortable shoes instead of high heels and wearing support hose (when the weather isn’t hot) can all make you feel more at ease. Look for maternity clothing that makes you feel light and breezy, that doesn’t bind or pull. Avoid snug collars, pack away your belts and don’t even look for a waistline until after Baby arrives.

All Swelling During Pregnancy is Not Normal

There is a medical condition called preeclampsia, which is characterized by sudden swelling in the hands and face. Normal edema happens normally—not overnight! But in preeclampsia, abnormally high blood pressure causes noticeable facial and hand swelling: if you experience sudden swelling, contact your doctor. OB-GYNs test for preeclampsia at prenatal visits, and mild cases aren’t dangerous, but if you have the condition, you should be under a doctor’s supervision
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