Swollen hands and feet are very common during pregnancy. The medical term for this swelling is ‘edema,’ which is nothing but excessive water retention in the tissues.
During pregnancy, the body tends to retain more water, giving rise to bloating or swelling of body parts. Sometimes certain changes in blood composition due to hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy also result in the movement of fluids into the tissues.
Another reason for edema is the pressure exerted on the pelvis veins and the vena cava, which is the largest vein in the body that is located on the right side of the body and transports blood from the lower limbs to the heart and pressure on the vena cava is also responsible for sciatica in some pregnant women, by the expanding uterus.
When pressure is applied to the veins, they get compressed and take longer to carry the blood back. As a result, the blood gets accumulated in the veins and pushes the other fluids into the surrounding tissues, causing swelling.
Pregnant women suffering from edema will find their undergarments, ring fingers, and even shoes becoming snug and tight due to swelling in the tissues. The onset of edema is usually seen towards the end of the second trimester, and it has fully set in by the third trimester. Pregnant women who live in a warm climate are more commonly affected by swollen hands and feet.
The Good News!
Fortunately, the swelling during pregnancy goes away within a week of your delivery. Once the body has delivered the baby, it will rapidly start getting rid of the accumulated fluid. Therefore, women who suffer from edema during pregnancy often find themselves urinating and sweating in excess for a few days after giving birth.
Tips to Prevent Swelling During Pregnancy
Swollen hands and feet during pregnancy can be a very uncomfortable situation to be in. Besides, edema makes the pregnant woman feel even worse about the physical changes in her body. It is not always possible to avoid edema, but there are successful ways to prevent it.
#Elevate Your Feet
Keep your feet raised to the level of your heart when lying down. If working on a desk, simply rest your feet on a small stool or a stack of piles to prevent fluid accumulation. Don’t cross your legs or ankles while sitting or standing because this will pressure the veins.
#Avoid Standing for Too Long
Don’t keep standing in one place for long. Take short walks after every hour to keep the fluid circulation going in your body. When going to sleep, lie on your left side because the vena cava is located on the right side of the body. Resting on your right side will put added pressure on the vena cava resulting in swelling of hands and feet. Sleeping on your back or your tummy is not recommended during pregnancy.
Do regular leg exercises, especially if you spend most of your day sitting in one place. Relieve the pressure from your veins by stretching the legs. First, stretch your leg by pushing it away from your body and gently rotate the feet to give it some exercise. Now stretch your calf muscles. Move your ankles in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions to exercise them.
Do not give up on your regular walks in the morning or evening unless you have been put on bed rest. An increasing tummy often makes it impossible to walk. However, continue with the walking exercise by simply going for walks of a shorter duration.
Do not wear heels at all. Heels are bad news for pregnant women not only because they hurt the back but also because they tend to aggravate the condition of edema. So avoid heels altogether. Instead, wear comfortable shoes that can stretch easily to accommodate any swelling on the feet.
#Wear Loose-fitting, Stretchable Bottoms
Avoid wearing socks or stockings that have tight bands. The tightness of the bands will cause the blood to pool in the particular area, which will push the fluid into the tissues resulting in swelling. Get yourself a pair of super stretchable high-waist maternity pants and leggings for support. Wear them first thing in the morning so that the blood does not accumulate around your ankles and feet.
Ironically, the best way of preventing water retention is by drinking plenty of water. Water retention is often caused when the body feels it isn’t getting enough water. To avoid dehydration, the body tends to stock up on fluids. Water retention by the body causes swelling. So drink at least 12 glasses of water to keep up the proper circulation of fluids in the body.
#Try Prenatal Yoga
Certain yoga postures are excellent for reducing water retention and swelling in the body. However, a specific type of yoga for pregnant women called prenatal yoga effectively prevents and treats edema. Make sure you wear four-way stretch maternity yoga wear while performing prenatal yoga. If you cannot join prenatal yoga classes, take up walking, swimming, or cycling to exercise your body. Even water-aerobics is good for reducing the swelling caused by edema.
#Eat a Well-balanced Diet
Eat a well-balanced diet and avoid junk foods and processed foods. Foods that contain high quantities of salt or oil are known to increase the condition of edema. Even food prepared using white flour contributes to causing swelling during pregnancy.
Keep your blood pressure in control by eating right. High blood pressure often pushes excess water into the body tissues. If you have high blood pressure, then your doctor might have to treat you to prevent preeclampsia.
The condition of edema does not affect the health of your baby in any way. Edema is not a severe medical condition unless you notice swelling on your face or you have puffy eyes, in which case it is advisable to see your doctor immediately. If you experience sudden or excessive swelling in your hands and feet, you could be suffering from a severe condition called preeclampsia. Any pain or swelling in one leg should also be reported immediately to your health care provider.