It’s normal to swell up during pregnancy, but that doesn’t make it any more comfortable – Claudia Gocoul advises on how to cope with pregnancy swelling.
You expected your belly to swell, but no one ever warned you your legs, ankles and feet could follow suit. As Kim Kardashian is painfully aware (who can forget the picture of her feet squeezed into those uncomfortable looking sandals?) oedema, or swelling, is a common side effect of pregnancy, which affects three out of four expectant mothers.
Why am I so swollen?
During pregnancy your body fluids increase to nurture your baby. Swelling occurs when those body fluids gather in your tissues as a result of increased blood flow. As inconvenient as it can be, undergoing more change when your body is already changing so much, slight swelling is a necessary evil which shows everything is going well. It’s not just your legs and feet that will swell, your face might be puffy and you’ll more than likely notice a change in your hands too.
Is this normal?
Mild swelling caused by oedema is super common and in most cases harmless. That said, it’s also completely normal to skip swelling all together – we’re looking at the other lucky one out of four here! If you do notice swelling and it persists for more than a day at a time it’s time to contact your GP. Excessive swelling, along with other side effects including elevated blood pressure, excessive weight gain and protein in the urine can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
It’s getting worse!
Oedema becomes a problem for most women toward the end of the pregnancy. You might well be on the home stretch but all of that extra blood that you are carrying can make the finish line feel miles away. Most expectant mothers will find swelling is worse toward the end of the day and during the summer when the weather is warm.
When will it stop?
As unfair as it sounds, swelling won’t disappear the second you hold your baby in your arms. All of the extra blood doesn’t leave the body during delivery. This, coupled with hormonal changes and fluid retention will mean the swelling you’re experiencing is here to stay for a little while longer. It’s not all bad news, the swelling should subside within a week. That said, it doesn’t help you when you’re trying to fit into your favourite brogues. With that in mind here are our top tips for battling the unexpected bulge.
• It’s often easier said than done but try to avoid long periods sitting down. If you work in a desk job try to get up and walk often. Similarly, if you’re always on your feet try to sit down and rest at regular intervals.
• When sitting, elevate your legs where possible. What better excuse is there to put your feet up in the office than carrying a small human?
• Indulge in some light exercise. We’re not advising taking up a brand new training plan but pregnancy yoga and regular short walks should do it.
• It goes without saying that you should wear comfortable shoes and avoid tight socks where possible. You’re just prolonging the problem!
• Flush out all that extra water with-you guessed it-water! It sounds counterintuitive but keeping yourself hydrated will keep the swell at bay.
When to seek medical attention
According to the NHS, you should seek medical attention immediately if your face, feet or hands swell up all of a sudden. A pregnancy condition known as pre-eclampsia can cause sudden swelling, so if this does happen to you contact your midwife, doctor or hospital immediately. Pre-eclampsia can be very serious for both mother and baby, so if you do have it you will need to be monitored carefully.
Other pre-eclampsia symptoms include:
- severe headache
- problems with vision, such as blurring or flashing before the eyes
- severe pain below the ribs
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