What Causes Leg Swelling During Pregnancy and How Do I Treat It?

What Causes Leg Swelling During Pregnancy and How Do I Treat It?
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What Causes Swollen Legs During Pregnancy?


Swelling, or edema, of some type is common and usually expected in nearly every pregnancy. Because of the changes that the pregnant body is undergoing, more fluid is produced, especially during the third trimester. The body retains the fluid in preparation for labor and delivery.

Swelling usually occurs in the feet, ankles, lower legs and hands, sometimes also occurring in the face. Swelling is generally worse during hot summer months and after being on your feet for long periods of time. During the last few months of pregnancy as the uterus grows in size, its weight can put pressure on the circulatory system, making it harder for fluids to move up and out of the area.

Image credit: kornrolla (morguefile.com)

How Do You Treat Swollen Legs During Pregnancy?

Treatment for swollen legs, ankles and feet is fairly simple. The first step is to reduce the amount of time you are spending standing on your feet or sitting with your feet flat on the ground. This will help fluids to not pool in the lower extremities.

The second step is to increase the amount of time you have your feet raised above your heart. Laying on the couch with pillows under your legs to elevate them or using a recliner that raises your legs are a good way to accomplish this goal.

A third way to help reduce edema is to decrease your exposure to heat. In the summer, especially on extremely hot and muggy days, try to stay in air conditioned areas, take cool showers and wear light clothing.

Fourth, when laying down, try to lay on your left side, especially at night when sleeping. Laying on the left side reduces the pressure on the veins and arteries in the pelvic region, increasing their blood flow and their ability to cycle the fluids out of the area.

Diet is related to swelling as well. Increasing the amount of protein you are consuming and reducing your salt intake can help reduce swelling. Also, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, increasing your water intake will reduce swelling and help flush your body of excess fluids.

When Are Swollen Legs More Than a Minor Concern?

While some swelling is normal, there are some instances where it can be indicative of a problem or complication. If you experience sudden swelling, blurred vision, severe headaches, dizziness, severe pain in the belly, or if one leg is swollen and not the other, contact your health care provider immediately.

Conditions such as preeclampsia, also known as toxemia, or a blood clot can cause this type of swelling and are urgent matters. As with any condition during pregnancy, do not take any type of medication without your doctor or midwife’s advice. Water pills are especially dangerous to a pregnancy and many other medications can cause harm to you or your unborn child.


Mayo Clinic: What Causes Ankle Swelling During Pregnancy?

BabyCenter: Swollen Extremities During Pregnancy