The body needs more fluid when pregnant to maintain the health of a growing baby. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), the body produces 50% more body fluids during pregnancy. Extra fluid can cause swelling or “edema” at any time in pregnancy, but in particular during the last trimester. Edema in the hands, face, ankles, legs and feet is normal during pregnancy. You may not be able to eliminate it, but certain steps will help you reduce it.
1. Heat is major contributor to most pregnancy swelling, particularly in the hands, ankles and feet. If it is a particularly hot day or you are working somewhere hot, try and take time to cool down, drink a lot of water and rest.
2. Some changes to your diet could help reduce swelling. Eating bananas, which are high in potassium and reducing consumption of coffee or sodas (which are often high in sodium and caffeine) can help. Other foods and herbs that have a natural diuretic effect include celery, onions, eggplants, garlic, parsley and mint. For more detail, please refer to The best foods to reduce water retention in pregnancy.
3. Resting often is very important. If your feet are very swollen, raise them on a pillow or chair, even if working at a desk.
4. Wearing support tights or socks (diabetic style socks work well) can help ease the discomfort of the swelling. As can placing a package of frozen veggies directly on a swollen ankle.
5. Swimming is a wonderful activity that helps you get exercise and relieve the swelling at the same time. The coolness of the water will also help reduce any uncomfortable swelling. Exercise of any kind is always beneficial to reducing water retention. Prenatal approved yoga and walking can also help (even though walking a lot can increase immediate swelling, overall, the additional exercise will help). Soaking in a tub of cool water - or a baby pool in the backyard will also help relieve swelling if you don't have access to a large pool to swim in.
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This article was original contributed by Mary Ann Blythe in Nov 2011, and updated by motherpedia on 13th Jun 2015, with advices from medical experts.
Though these tips and foods are safe and highly effective in reducing edema in pregnancy, it is important to check with your doctor whether you need any tests to rule out the dangerous causes of fluid retention like pre-eclampsia that need any specific treatment.