Pregnancy brings about a slew of changes showering on your body. Swollen feet are one of the hallmark features that are very common when pregnant. As the belly gets bigger, so do the feet. Why does this happen?
Why do your feet swell up during pregnancy?
When you are pregnant, your body needs more fluids to cycle nutrients from you to the growing embryo. The increased blood flow causes mild swelling throughout the body. It is more prominent in the feet because
- The pressure of uterine weight pushing down on the pelvic veins
- The uterus also snugly sits on top of the vena cava, the big vein that returns blood from your lower body to the heart for purification causing blood pooling in the feet
Different women swell differently. The time of the day, how much you’ve been walking/ standing/ sitting, the position of your feet, and even the weather can affect how much your feet swell. Usually, warmer temperatures mean more swelling. If you’ve been gaining weight faster, you may swell more.
When do they swell up?
Oedema is a very common occurrence affecting three-quarters of all pregnant women at some point. It usually begins around week 22 to 27 and will be there to stay until you give birth.
Should you worry if your feet swell up during pregnancy?
Mild puffiness of the feet during the day and slightly more as the day ends, are normal. If you are the one lucky woman out of the four, you may have no swelling at all! If you notice:
- Your swelling’s not subsiding even after a good rest.
- Uneven swelling with one foot much bigger than the other.
- Swelling increasing so much that you can see a difference in your face, hands and around your eyes.
- The swelling is painful.
You should call your doctor right away.
Excessive and sudden swelling is one of the symptoms of a critical condition called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia also causes elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine and rapid weight gain and needs to be addressed immediately. If you check all these and they are under control and it’s just the swelling, then it’s not something you should worry about.
Can you avoid feet swelling during pregnancy?
- There are a few things that you can try to keep the stuffy feet minimal.
- You’re pregnant! That’s enough reason to kick your feet up and rest, literally! Sitting with your legs hanging down from a chair or sofa will cause them to swell. Always put your feet up when you are sitting!
- Do not stand or sit for long periods. Both are equal culprits in ballooning your feet. So if you are standing a lot, take breaks to rest your feet. If your work demands that you sit for long stretches, take a quick walk every hour to keep your blood circulation smooth.
- Try sleeping on your sides, preferably the left. Lying flat exerts huge pressure on the vena cave and the other veins, causing fluid pooling. Get a comfy body pillow or use your spouse as one to get good rest on your sides.
- Pick a pregnancy-safe exercise with the help of your gynaecologist to keep you active. Walking is a good exercise that stimulates blood circulation. If you can, swimming is a great exercise – the water pressure is said to push back oedema into your veins so you can pee them out.
- Upgrade your pregnancy style with footwear that supports your growing feet. Use good sturdy and soft footwear that doesn’t crush your feet. You can also get orthotic inserts to go with your regular footwear so you look professional and comfy at the same time. Good footwear also helps shoo away back pain, so it’s a double dhamaka! Use the same good orthotic slippers indoors too.
- If you like the stuff, you can try on some socks and pantyhose to see if they help. Knee or thigh high socks/ pantyhose gently compress your feet to keep oedema away. For best results, wear them before the daily swelling onset (as soon as you wake up) to keep your feet normal. But, remember to make sure that nothing you wear is hard on your belly. Squish your legs, free the belly.
- Keep yourself well hydrated to keep oedema at bay. It may seem counterintuitive to drink more water when there’s fluid pooling around your feet, but trust me, it helps. The water helps flush out the sodium and the other wastes keep your kidneys clean and reduce oedema.
- Stay cool / indoors during hot weather. Hot weather is a swelling worsened, so air condition, if you can, to keep cool.
- I saved the best for the last – the culprit might be salt. Sodium aids in fluid retention in the body, keeping you puffy. Moderating your salt intake will help drain the fluid quickly. Use half the measure salt of what you normally have to keep blood pressure and swelling at bay during pregnancy. Another black sheep is caffeine. Too much caffeine will advocate water retention causing you to swell a lot. Food rich in potassium such as bananas can help you get rid of the fluids.
Are you sure its oedema?
If your shoes have been feeling a bit snug lately, there may be another factor at play. During the third trimester, your body starts releasing a hormone called relaxin to loosen up your ligaments. The relaxin softening of the ligaments helps your pelvic bones move and stretch much farther than normal to help with your little one coming out.
Concurrently, ligaments in your lower extremities have also begun to jellify with relaxin, causing your feet to spread out and widen. After birth, even if you lose your weight, even if oedema recedes away and your ligaments tighten up, your feet are going to stay bigger forever. Some women go up even a full shoe size with each pregnancy! If this is the case with feeling snug, don’t choke your feet with old footwear – go shoe shopping!