When you’re pregnant, your body naturally undergoes numerous changes. Swelling during pregnancy is one of them. You may want to know why this happens.
While swelling during pregnancy is to be expected, there are times when it can be concerning. You may feel bloated and uncomfortable and even worry about the change in the size of certain parts of your body, such as your ankles and feet.
Swelling During Pregnancy
Although you begin to experience swelling during pregnancy as early as the first trimester, when your stomach becomes bloated, it is most prominent by the time you’re in your fifth month. From there, you can expect to swell even more once you reach your third trimester.
This swelling, also known as edema, is normal for pregnant women. It’s caused by the abundance of blood and fluids running through your body that are there to help your baby grow. As your body retains water and other fluids, it gives your body the chance to expand to accommodate your baby. After you have given birth, your body gradually goes back to normal, and the swelling dissipates.
Certain factors can increase your swelling during pregnancy. They include the following:
- Hot weather
- Too much sodium
- Too much caffeine
- Standing for too long
- Not enough potassium
What Causes Swelling When You’re Pregnant?
All that extra fluid coursing through your body leads to swelling when you’re pregnant. It should also come as no surprise since the total volume of water in your body increases by as much as eight liters. Your blood volume also increases anywhere from 30 to 50 percent. While some of the fluid works to eliminate waste products, control your electrolytes and deliver more oxygen, some of it stays in your cells to improve their function.
Normal swelling during pregnancy isn’t any cause for alarm. It’s perfectly normal for pregnant women to experience issues like their shoes being too tight or their ankles feeling too swollen. You may even notice that your ring doesn’t want to come off because your fingers have swollen seemingly twice their normal size. In your third trimester, this is especially noticeable as your baby grows even bigger, which causes more blood to be pumped through your body. The blood flow in certain parts of your body makes those parts seem even more swollen.
When to Worry About Swelling
Although most swelling is perfectly normal when you’re pregnant, there are times when you may worry. Edema can be a symptom of a serious health problem. You should carefully examine the body parts that are swollen and note whether one is swelling more than the other, such as if you’re experiencing it in your legs. If there is also pain, it might mean there’s a blood clot.
Other symptoms to keep aware of include the following:
- Continuous headache
- Vision changes like blurriness or light sensitivity
- Breathing difficulties
- Chest pain
Some of these symptoms can be related to preeclampsia, a serious condition that occurs in pregnant women when their blood pressure is too high. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately contact your doctor and discuss the symptoms with him or her.
Relieving Your Swelling During Pregnancy
Fortunately, if you are experiencing normal swelling during pregnancy, there are things you can do to relieve it. You may even find that the swelling has lessened to some extent as you get into the habit of these practices:
- Put up your feet: Elevating your feet can give your lower body much-needed relief. You can also have your significant other massage your feet.
- Eliminate sodium: Cutting down on your salt intake can help relieve swelling. You may want to find other, healthier things to eat during pregnancy.
- Drink more water: Drinking a lot of water can help keep you hydrated, which can stave off excess swelling.
- Sleep on your left side: Lying on your left side in bed can improve your blood flow. You may want to use a pregnancy pillow for additional support as well.
- Avoid standing too often: Avoid standing for long periods of time and avoid sitting for too long. You should alternate periodically and stretch as often as you can manage. When you do sit, avoid crossing your legs.
- Use compression socks or stockings: Wearing compression socks or stockings can help ease swelling.
- Limit caffeine: Limit caffeine or cut it out of your diet completely while you’re pregnant.
- Exercise regularly: Exercising regularly can help fight swelling, even if you just walk for 30 minutes per day.
Although swelling during pregnancy is normal, you can improve your symptoms. Always talk to your doctor to ensure everything is fine so you can have nine healthy months and a healthy baby.