Caused by rising hormones, edema is a very common condition and is experienced by about 50% of women sometime during their pregnancy. It can happen any time but tends to be worse in the third trimester. It is the result of the production of more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of the developing baby. Normal swelling is typically experienced in the hands, face, legs, ankles and feet. This fluid is necessary to soften the body and allow expansion as the baby develops. Fluid also helps to prepare the pelvic joints and tissues to open for birth. The extra fluid accounts for about 25% of the weight women gain during pregnancy.
Swelling can be affected by heat, standing for long periods of time, long days of activity, a diet low in potassium and high caffeine and sodium intake.
To reduce swelling:
- Drink lots of water which helps to flush the body
- Relax, lie down or elevate your feet regularly
- Avoid tight fitting clothes, shoes and stockings
- Exercise (on your doctor’s recommendations)
- Avoid diuretic drugs; minimize sodium and caffeine
- Stay cool
- Avoid standing for long periods
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Wear support hose
- Use cold compresses on swollen areas
- Try foods with diuretic properties such as anise, celery, onion, parsley, eggplant, garlic and peppermint
See your obstetrician regularly. Slight swelling is expected but sudden swelling in your face and hands could indicate preeclampsia, which is serious.