Swollen Feet And Ankles During Pregnancy : Causes and Cure

Swollen Feet And Ankles During Pregnancy : Causes and Cure

3 Jun 2022 | 6 min Read

Sayani Basu

Author | 342 Articles

Finding it more difficult to tie your shoes than usual? Well, swollen feet and ankles might be to blame. Yes, your belly isn’t the only thing that’s swelling during pregnancy. You might have mild swelling throughout your body – especially, in your feet and ankles. Swelling feet and ankles are common during pregnancy because the body retains extra fluid to protect and support the growing foetus.

Medical reports suggest that swelling in the feet and ankles usually happens during the third trimester when the weight of the uterus and foetus puts extra pressure on the legs and feet. This pressure can reduce circulation and increase fluid buildup, and cause swelling. Here’s everything you need to know about swollen feet and ankles during pregnancy.

Causes Of Swollen Feet And Ankles During Pregnancy

Apart from the increase in fluid production and retention, there are some other causes of swollen feet and ankles during pregnancy:

  1. The increased pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvis due to foetal growth in the uterus are one of the primary causes of swollen feet and ankles.

The large uterus exerts pressure on the inferior vena cava, the vein which carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart. This pressure slows down the blood circulation and causes the blood to pool in the legs, resulting in fluid accumulation in the tissues of the feet and ankles.

  1. The hormonal changes in oestrogen, progesterone also contribute to ankle swelling.
  1. Other minor factors which might contribute to swollen ankles during pregnancy are hot and humid climate, inadequate potassium in the diet, excessive consumption of salt and caffeine, sitting, standing, or walking for a long period of time.

Complications of Swollen Feet And Ankles During Pregnancy

Swollen feet and ankles can sometimes signal a health issue during pregnancy. Some of these are:

  1. Preeclampsia: A sudden increase in swelling of the feet can be a sign of preeclampsia, a health condition that can happen during pregnancy or postpartum.

It increases your blood pressure and leads to organ problems in pregnant women.

Women might also notice a puffy or swollen face, swelling around the eyes, or sudden swelling in the hands.

There might also be some decolourisation in the legs. Medical reports suggest that it occurs after 20 weeks of gestation or up to 6 weeks after giving birth.

Preeclampsia can progress quickly, and without treatment, it can be dangerous for the mum and the baby.

Your doctor might prescribe antihypertensive drugs to lower blood pressure. Plus, if the pregnancy has reached 37 weeks or more, they might recommend delivering the baby early.

  1. Deep vein thrombosis: Uneven swelling in the feet might also indicate a blood clot, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Studies show that pregnant mums and women who have given birth within the last three months have a higher risk of DVT because blood clots more easily during pregnancy to prevent the excess blood loss during labour and birth.

The growing foetus also puts pressure on the feet, which can reduce circulation. Being less mobile than usual during both pregnancy and the recovery period after childbirth can also reduce blood flow in the legs.

Your doctor might prescribe a drug called low-molecular-weight heparin to prevent or treat blood clots and DVT and will inject the drug under the skin.

7 Ways of Getting Relief From Swollen Feet And Ankles

Although swollen feet and ankles can be uncomfortable, there are some steps that help ease your symptoms during pregnancy:

  1. Reduce sodium intake: To reduce swelling during pregnancy, you must limit your sodium (salt) intake as salt makes your body hold on to extra water.

It will also be a good idea to avoid canned or processed foods, as these are especially high in sodium.

  1. Increase potassium intake: Potassium helps your body balance the amount of fluids it holds onto and thus not getting enough potassium can make swelling worse.

Some foods that are high in potassium include:

  • potatoes and sweet potatoes with their skin on
  • bananas
  • spinach
  • beans

Some fruit juices that are high in potassium include:

  • prune
  • pomegranate
  • orange
  • carrot
  • passionfruit
  • yoghourt
  • beets
  • salmon
  • lentils
A foot massage with peppermint or lavender essential oil can provide relief to swollen feet. | Image Source: pexels

  1. Stay off your feet: It is advisable to avoid standing for long periods. You can sit with your feet up and rotate your feet at the ankles  occasionally and gently flex your feet to stretch your calf muscles.

It will be better if you lie down with your legs elevated.

  1. Sleep on your left side: Sleeping on your left side takes pressure off the large vein that returns blood from the lower half of your body to your heart (inferior vena cava).

Elevating your legs slightly with the help of pillows might also help.

  1. Wear compression stockings and be physically active: After consulting a doctor, you can wear supportive tights or stockings during the day to get relief from swollen feet.

These stockings gently squeeze your feet and legs and will keep the fluid circulating.

Take walks, ride a stationary bike or swim laps in a pool to stay physically active.

  1. Wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes: Tight clothes can restrict blood flow. Hence, it is advisable to wear loose clothes. Try to avoid wearing socks or stockings with tight bands on the ankles or calves.
Wearing comfortable shoes can reduce foot swelling during pregnancy. | Image Source: pexels

Wearing comfortable (even orthotic), well-fitting shoes can reduce foot swelling and prevent hip and back problems that can arise as your centre of gravity shifts and your weight increases.

  1. Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated and drinking eight to 10 glasses of fluid each day can help prevent the body from holding onto excess water.

Key Takeaways

Swollen feet and ankles is usually a normal part of the later stages of pregnancy and is not a cause for concern. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor if you notice a sudden increase in swelling in the feet, hands, or face, or around the eyes along with intense headaches, blurry vision, blisters and a warm, tender red rash.

DISCLAIMER: We have taken steps to check the accuracy of information & practices shared above; however, it is not a replacement for a doctor’s opinion. Please check with either your doctor, or an expert, before trying any suggestion, practice, or medication mentioned here.

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