How to ease pregnancy leg and ankle swelling

Pregnancy leg and ankle swelling

Baby on board and can’t see where your legs finish and your feet start? Welcome to pregnancy leg and ankle swelling, where cute shoes are ditched and cankles abound.

Caused by increased fluid and blood flow, pregnancy ankle, feet and leg swelling is very common, with many mums-to-be ending the day legs up and resting hoping they’ll see their ankles again before bedtime. In most cases, it’s just another one of those pregnancy symptoms that you’ll wave goodbye to once you have bub in your arms. But sometimes foot and ankle swelling in pregnancy can be serious.

Here’s what you need to know about ankle and leg swelling in pregnancy, and how to ease the squeeze.

What causes leg and ankle swelling in pregnancy?

Leg swelling in pregnancy

Mum’s Grapevine Pregnancy Facebook Group member Kayla Louise shared the above photo of her swollen feet after work, saying, “I wear tactical boots all day and the fluid has nowhere to go!” It’s a fascinating look at how fluid collects in the lower limbs during pregnancy.

It’s really common for feet and ankles to swell in pregnancy (also called edema), and most of the time although it’s uncomfortable and really gross to look at, it’s usually caused by one of these three things:

  1. You’re producing more blood than usual to help your little bub grow.
  2. Your uterus is pressing on the veins that return the blood from your legs to your heart as bub gets bigger.
  3.  Pregnancy hormones are making the walls of your veins softer, so they’re having trouble working properly. It means blood tends to pool in your legs.

When is ankle and leg swelling more likely to happen?

Usually, as the day wears on, you’ll notice your feet and ankles swelling. The extra fluid in your body is heading down thanks to gravity, and if you’re on your feet a lot during the day this is more likely to happen. You’re also more likely to get swelling the later you are in your pregnancy.

When is swelling in pregnancy a concern?

While gradual swelling is uncomfortable, it’s usually harmless to you and bub. But, if you experience any of these things, you need to get immediate medical attention:

  • Your swelling is there at the start of the day or doesn’t go down even after you rest.
  • Your hands or face are swollen.
  • The swelling is different or more than you’ve had before. These can all be signs of pre-eclampsia, so don’t wait and see a medical professional immediately.
  • If one leg is more swollen than another, which is a sign of deep vein thrombosis.

How can I ease the swelling?

Usually, the swelling will go away after you’ve had bub, but in the meantime, you may want to actually see your ankles again, so here are some things to try:

  • Avoid standing for a really long time, especially standing in the one spot.
  • Wear comfy shoes.
  • Put your feet up when you can.
  • Try to limit the amount of salt you’re eating (sorry salty pregnancy cravings).
  • Sleep on your left side (it helps blood return to your heart).
  • Keep up your regular exercise like walking or swimming – it’s great for circulation.
  • Give compression stockings a try – they’re supposed to help the blood flow back to the heart and limit swelling.
  • Drink plenty of water. Yep, it might seem a little nuts to put more fluid in your body, but you need to avoid dehydration.
  • Massage or reflexology might also help.

What about cupping for swollen pregnancy feet?

Jessica Simpson pregnancy swelling

Singer and actress Jessica Simpson shared her pregnancy swelling woes with her 4.5 million Instagram followers asking for remedies. Among the advice was cupping, an ancient form of alternative therapy where cups are placed on the skin using suction. Cupping is supposed to help with inflammation and blood flow, so the celebrity mumma gave it a try – and it worked! That’s her before, during and after photos above – what a transformation.

The research on cupping during pregnancy says that’s it’s safe, up until the sixth month of pregnancy, and should never be done on the abdomen area, the back or certain acupuncture pressure points.

Sources: Health Direct, Cupping Therapy Guide, National University of Health Sciences.

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