Things That Make You Swell When You're Pregnant

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Swelling during pregnancy isn’t uncommon. Normal swelling, also called edema, can happen in the hands, feet, face, legs and ankles. Kim Borneman, CNM, UnityPoint Health, explains why you might experience swelling in pregnancy and ways to ease swelling once it starts.

Swelling in Pregnancy

Swelling is the accumulation of fluid in the tissues. It happens often during pregnancy, since the body produces about 50 percent more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of a developing baby. Three additional aspects of pregnancy may lead to more swelling.

  • Growing uterus. As baby grows so does the uterus, which impacts the return of blood to the heart.
  • Changing hormones. This can cause the body to retain more fluid, too.
  • Retaining fluid. As part of being pregnant, the body often retains extra fluid.

“Swelling may be experienced anytime during pregnancy, but many begin to notice it mid-pregnancy,” Borneman says. “It’s not uncommon to see swelling increase near the end of pregnancy.

How to Reduce Swelling

“I recommend sleeping or resting on the left side. This may help take the pressure of the large vein that returns blood from your lower extremities to your heart. You can also sleep with your legs elevated on pillows to reduce swelling.” Borneman says.

When you are focused on reducing swelling, Borneman offers these suggestions for your daily life.

Foods That Cause Swelling

There are certain types of foods you can remove from your diet to help relieve edema during pregnancy.

  • Reduce salt. Avoid adding table salt to foods, and read food labels to identify sodium amounts. Sodium causes your body to retain water.
  • Avoid processed foods. Processed foods can range from chips and pre-packaged goodies to lunch meats and canned foods. Often, processed foods are high in trans-fat, which can eventually lead to edema.
  • Reduce caffeine use. Caffeine in coffee, tea and soda pop tends to cause water retention. Avoiding carbohydrates and sugars. A diet high in simple sugars can also lead to retaining water.
  • Focus on lean meats. Try meats like turkey and chicken, which are high in protein. Protein helps balance the amount of fluid in your tissues.

Foods That Reduce Swelling

Getting the right vitamins and minerals in your diet can help keep swelling during pregnancy in check.

“Getting your daily vitamins can be done by eating a well-balanced diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, make sure to take a daily prenatal vitamin to help both you and baby stay healthy,” Borneman says.

Also, foods high in potassium may help reduce swelling by keeping your body chemically balanced. Potassium is found in foods, including bananas, sweet potatoes, kidney beans and avocado.

Surprisingly, drinking plenty of water helps flush the body and reduces water retention. Borneman says to aim for ingesting two to three liters of water daily

Should I Be Concerned About Swelling?

Although swelling is common during pregnancy, there are times to be worried.

  • Sudden swelling in hands or face with or without a headache or change in vision.
  • Swelling along with chest pains, shortness of breath or continuous coughing.
  • More swelling in one leg than the other and accompanied by pain.

Contact your doctor immediately, if you experience any of these red flags

Swelling After Birth

While some women experience swelling during pregnancy, others might notice swollen feet after pregnancy, too.

“Swelling is common after delivery and is often related to medication you may receive during labor and the hormone shift from no longer being pregnant.”

If you have any questions or concerns make sure to talk with your doctor.