Most women experience foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy. A woman may notice edema around the fifth month of her pregnancy, but it is most noticeable during her last trimester. Edema is common for pregnant women because a woman’s body retains more water during pregnancy. The growing uterus also puts pressure on the veins to the legs which impairs circulation. The reduced blood circulation then causes fluid to build up in the lower extremities.

Slight swelling is normal during pregnancy for as long as proteinuria and hypertension are not present. If you suddenly notice that you have swelling in your face or hands, and puffiness around your eyes, you need to contact your doctor right away. These may be signs of preeclampsia, and you need to be properly evaluated to prevent any complications. Women should also watch out for other symptoms of preeclampsia, which include severe headache, dizziness and blurred vision

Some women may notice that their edema is worse on some days. Factors like prolonged standing, hot weather and diet high in sodium and caffeine, may worsen edema during pregnancy. In order to minimize edema during pregnancy, here are some helpful tips:

1. Avoid long periods of standing because it may only promote pooling of blood in your lower extremities. If your work requires that you stand for prolonged periods, try to take breaks during the day. Sit and elevate your legs for thirty minutes at least twice a day, to promote circulation.

2. Sleep on your left side because it increases kidney glomerular filtration rate thereby minimizing edema.

3. Avoid wearing constricting clothing because these can only impede circulation.

4. Try to avoid going outdoors when it’s really hot. Swelling can become worse due to hot weather.

5. Stay away from junk foods or foods that contain too much salt because it can only cause more water retention. If possible, try to minimize your sodium consumption.

6. Do not cross your legs while sitting down because it can affect lower extremity circulation. Try to elevate your legs on a footrest while sitting. If you have to stay on your desk for long periods, try to take walking breaks to promote circulation.

7. Drink plenty of water. This will help flush the body and minimize swelling.

8. Apply cold compresses to swollen areas. This will provide relief and may minimize edema.

9. Try to exercise regularly because it can improve circulation. You can greatly benefit from swimming at this time because the buoyancy of water can help lift the weight of the baby from your pelvis.

10. Try to avoid caffeinated foods and beverages. Caffeine is a diuretic and if you are not taking in enough fluids, your body may respond by retaining more water to compensate.

Although mild edema can occur during pregnancy, women can be assured that it will go away after delivery of the baby. The changes may not make a woman too happy, but it is only a small discomfort as compared to the joy that pregnancy brings.