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How to Reduce Swelling During Pregnancy

Feet Up

When pregnant during the summer months, you may look down at the end of the day and notice puffiness in your ankles, feet and/or legs. You might also notice swelling in your face, neck or hands. This normal part of pregnancy, called edema, is caused by many factors and is especially common in the hotter months; at the end of the day; and when you're 5 months pregnant or beyond, though it can happen at any point during pregnancy.

What's behind this swelling? Fluid retention, hormonal changes and pressure on certain veins can be to blame. However, there are steps you can take to prevent and manage this uncomfortable part of pregnancy.

How to Prevent Swelling:

  • Avoiding standing or sitting for long periods of time.
  • Elevate your feet when sitting or lying down.
  • Limit intake of higher-sodium foods. Some top sources include breads and rolls; cold cuts and cured meats; pizza; sandwiches; pasta dishes and snack foods. When reading labels, any food that provides more than 480 milligrams sodium per serving, or 20% or more the Daily Value for sodium, is considered a high-sodium food.
  • Eat potassium-rich foods to counteract the effect of sodium. Bananas, dates, yogurt, potatoes, sweet potatoes and cooked spinach are a few sources to include.
  • Drink enough fluid. Generally, it's recommended to drink 8-10, 8-ounce glasses of fluid each day. Be sure to speak to your obstetrician or midwife for personalized fluid recommendations.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes and avoid anything that may cut off circulation, such as tight ankle socks or pants.
  • Avoid high heels during pregnancy and wear comfortable shoes.
  • Limit intake of caffeine. Safe recommendations during pregnancy are to consume no more than 200-300 milligrams per day, though it may be necessary to reduce intake even further.

How to Manage Swelling:

  • Wear compression stockings if recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Put cold compresses wherever you're experiencing swelling.
  • Elevate feet if experiencing swelling in your legs, ankles or feet.
  • Sleep on your left side to reduce pressure on your vena cava, the large vein on the right side of your body which is responsible for circulating blood between your lower body and heart.
  • Enjoy time in the pool if approved by your doctor, as this may temporarily help reduce swelling.

When to Notify Your Doctor:

  • Sudden or excessive swelling
  • Pain with swelling
  • Swelling in only one foot or leg
  • Puffy eyes or blurred vision