Swollen Feet During Pregnancy: Causes & Treatments

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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There are many physical symptoms of pregnancy and having swollen feet during pregnancy can be worrying for some women. If you notice this symptom during pregnancy, it is critical to understand why it happens, and how to treat it.

Swollen Feet During Pregnancy

Swollen feet during pregnancy, caused by increased fluid levels in the body, is natural and common, particularly later in your term and during the third trimester. Swelling in different parts of the body is generally referred to as edema, and edema in the feet, while you are carrying a child, is completely natural. There are different reasons for this, but primarily swelling occurs because your body retains more water during pregnancy. Furthermore, the increased pressure in your pelvic region due to the presence of the baby can make the return of blood from your legs slower. This will result in an accumulation of blood in your feet and ankles, which will be countered with increased fluid levels, leading to swelling.

A picture of swollen feet

Swelling in the feet during pregnancy is very normal, as per the American Pregnancy Organization. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

That being said, other factors can also increase your risk of having swollen feet during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia. Although swelling can occur at any time during pregnancy, you are far more likely to experience this type of swelling in the third trimester, as the baby has grown by this time. In terms of extra weight being carried around and the pressure on the pelvic region, the swelling will likely be more in the later stages of pregnancy.

Treatments for Swollen Feet During Pregnancy

There are quite a few effective treatments for this type of edema, including stretching, wearing proper shoes, putting your feet up more, and performing foot exercises, among others.

Stretching

If you make stretching a part of your daily routine, you will be able to increase circulation to the extremities and prevent your ankles, heels, and calves from becoming stiff. This can greatly reduce the pain and discomfort, and drive better circulation, which will reduce swelling in the feet.

Shoe Choice

Many people wear incorrect shoes, which can cause additional edema in the feet, as well as inflammation in the joints. It can even alter the way you walk, which can further cause discomfort or pain in the hips and knees. Comfortable shoes are a must during pregnancy, including the use of insoles, which can reduce inflammation that will make the swelling worse.

Elevation

If you regularly put your feet up, it will help to reduce the swelling, accumulation of blood, and fluid build-up in your feet.

Stay Hydrated

One of the biggest reasons for edema and swelling in the feet is lack of water in the body. Dehydration will cause your blood vessels to narrow, which will make swelling even worse in the extremities. On the other hand, cut down on your salt intake to reduce water retention, as a lot of water can also cause swelling.

Foot Exercises

To reduce cramping and stimulate better circulation, there are some great exercises for pregnant women suffering from swollen feet. Begin by flexing the foot up and down 20 times, followed by rotating the foot in a circle 8-10 times, then do the same thing in reverse. Repeat this with both feet in the morning and evening for best results.

Word of Caution: While swelling is normal, if it becomes extreme or is accompanied by lightheadedness, blurred vision, headache or vomiting, you may be suffering from preeclampsia. This can be a serious condition and should be discussed with your doctor as soon as possible. Preeclampsia may require you to induce pre-term labor to ensure your and baby’s safety. Swelling in the ankles and feet is normal, but if the swelling appears in your hands or face, see a doctor immediately.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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