Pregnancy is a magical time for most women. From the first ultrasound scan to the anticipation of finally holding the little bundle of joy makes for beautiful moments. However, there are not-so-wonderful moments as well. One of them is the swelling of the ankles, feet, and fingers. It may be uncomfortable, but it is one of the common pregnancy symptoms.
This blog is a guide to managing swollen feet, ankles, and fingers during pregnancy.
What remedies for swelling in the ankles, feet, and fingers?
As mentioned earlier, swelling in the ankles, feet, and fingers is a common pregnancy symptom. It can be uncomfortable but is not painful. However, there are several remedies for swelling in the ankles, feet, and fingers during pregnancy. They are as follows:
- Limit sodium intake: Adding excessive salt makes the body retain extra water. Therefore, it is crucial to limit sodium intake. Doctors recommend pregnant women avoid canned or processed food as it is high in sodium and addition of extra table salt to any food. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano may add flavour to the dish without excess salt.
- Up the potassium consumption: Potassium ensure the body balances the number of fluids it can retain. A decrease in potassium levels may worsen the swelling. Include a potassium-rich diet such as:
- Skins of potato and sweet potato
- Bananas and fruit juices, including prunes, pomegranate, orange, carrot, and passion fruit
- Spinach, beets, beans, and lentils
- Decrease caffeine intake: Occasional caffeine does not harm, but excessive caffeine drinking may harm the baby. Switching to decaf or green tea may help to stay awake and alert.
- Hydration is the key: Increasing water intake can decrease swelling in the ankles, feet, and fingers. And here’s how it works. When the body is dehydrated, it retains water to compensate. But when the body gets at least ten glasses of water, the kidney starts functioning better .
- Rest and elevate: Taking a break regularly to rest the pregnant body is crucial. A simple way is to sit and elevate the legs as much as possible. Elevation helps drain excess fluid accumulated during the day.
- Select loose, comfortable clothing: Tight clothes limit the blood circulation to the ankles, feet, and fingers, thus, worsening the swelling. Also, avoiding tight rings or bracelets is essential for better blood circulation in the arms.
- Avoid hot weather: It is best to stay indoors during hot summers and avoiding excessive exercise may help keep swelling at a minimum. Also, applying cold compresses on the feet or a fan helps too.
- Opt for waist-high compression stockings: A pregnant woman can find several compression stockings in the market. But waist-high compression stockings are best for persistently swollen feet. These stockings work by gently squeezing the feet and legs, helping fluid circulate constantly. Avoid knee-high compression stockings as they may be too tight and worsen the swelling.
- Start walking: Many doctors consider walking a safe exercise during pregnancy. Going for ten-minute daily helps reduce swelling and makes for a relaxing activity.
- Say yes to comfortable shoes: As tempting as it may be, wearing high heeled footwear may not be the best idea. Instead, opt for comfortable, well-fitted shoes to reduce swelling in the ankles and feet. It also prevents hip and back issues that develop due to the centre of gravity shifting and weight gain.
- Get some pool time: Standing or swimming in neck-deep pool water may help reduce swelling in your ankles and feet. However, there are no studies to prove that water pressure helps in reducing swelling. But many find it beneficial.
- Prenatal massages help: Any massage by a partner or an experienced professional may help circulate the fluids better, reducing swelling.
- Sleeping on the left side is better: Doctors recommend sleeping on the left side to improve blood flow, thus reducing swelling. When a pregnant woman sleeps on the left side, it removes the pressure from the uterus on the inferior vena cava – the large blood vessel that returns blood to the heart.
- Foot exercises: Another way to reduce ankles and feet swelling is exercising the foot with stretches and rotation. It helps reduce swelling and cramps.
When to seek medical help?
When pregnant woman experiences swelling gradually, it may not cause harm to the mother or the child or both. But if the swelling is sudden with other symptoms, it may indicate other underlying health issues such as pre-eclampsia. Immediately seek medical attention if the patient experiences the following:
- Blurred vision or flashing light
- A severe headache
- Rapid swelling of hands, face, or feet
- Severe pain below the ribs
- Vomiting after 24 weeks of pregnancy
- One leg is swollen, and the calf is red and hot to touch
- Difficulty in breathing
What are the causes of swelling?
Pregnant women may experience swelling in their ankles, feet, and fingers. It occurs when the body creates additional fluid and blood to help healthy fetal growth. During pregnancy, women may also experience slow blood circulation, causing blood accumulation in the lower extremities that may result in swelling.
In addition, the body produces a hormone called relaxin in excess that helps muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints to relax. The hormones also help the pelvis to open in preparation for childbirth. The extra weight and hormones may not only cause swelling in the feet but also widens, flattens, and lengthens them. However, the swelling is likely to reduce after delivery.
Although swelling in the feet, ankles, and hands can be irritating, it is a part of the pregnancy journey. However, there are remedies to make it easier for any pregnant woman.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does a pregnant woman need medical treatment to manage the swelling?
The woman may need medical treatment if the swelling is due to an underlying condition. Otherwise, home remedies may help reduce the swelling.
What are the complications of swelling in ankles, feet, or hands?
If a pregnant woman experiences sudden or rapid swelling, it may indicate:
- Deep vein thrombosis