How to Treat Swollen Feet During Pregnancy and Postpartum

19 Feb

Pregnancy is a miraculous journey, brimming with excitement and new experiences. Yet, amidst the joy, there can be a few discomforts, and one that often takes the spotlight is swollen feet. In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a journey to understand why swollen feet are the co-stars of pregnancy and postpartum. We'll also navigate the potential risks and, most importantly, equip you with effective strategies to keep your feet happy during this incredible time. As you explore this guide, be sure to check out KinderSteps blogs for even more valuable parenting tips and insights to enhance your journey into motherhood.

What is edema?

Edema is the accumulation of excess fluid in various parts of the body during pregnancy and is often even seen in postpartum.

During pregnancy, it’s not shy about occupying other spaces besides the feet, such as the face, hands, abdomen, and sometimes even the entire body. In postpartum, though it primarily affects similar areas, you may also experience swelling around incision sites if you had a cesarean section or an episiotomy. Now let’s explore why it happens.

During pregnancy

Why does edema occur during pregnancy?

To understand why edema joins the pregnancy dance, we need to look at the backstage workings:

  • Fluid retention: Your body is like a masterful painter, creating a masterpiece - your baby. To do this, it needs more water during pregnancy to support the needs of the growing fetus and placenta.

  • Pressure on blood vessels: Imagine your expanding uterus as a friendly giant, but sometimes a bit too friendly. It can put pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvic area, hindering the return of blood from the legs to the heart.

  • Hormonal changes: Think of hormonal fluctuations as the light dimmer in the theater of your body. An increase in progesterone relaxes blood vessel walls, making it easier for fluid to leak into surrounding tissues.

Other factors affecting swelling during pregnancy

While edema is a common sidekick during pregnancy, its role can vary from woman to woman. Several factors can influence the degree of swelling experienced:

  • Prolonged standing or sitting: Imagine your legs as the Audience in this dance performance. If they remain stationary for too long, it’s like they’re waiting for the show to start. Moving around helps keep the blood flowing and prevents swelling.

  • Hot weather: High temperatures can turn the dance floor into a sauna. This can exacerbate swelling, so staying cool is crucial.

  • Low potassium levels: Picture potassium as the superhero in this story, ready to fight swelling. However, an insufficient intake of potassium-rich foods can leave you without this protector.

  • Excessive caffeine: Caffeine is like the party crasher who drinks all the refreshments. It’s a diuretic, which means it can lead to increased urination, potentially worsening fluid retention.

  • High sodium diet: A diet rich in salt is like adding extra dancers to the performance. It can cause water retention, making edema more prominent.

Ways to Treat Swollen Feet During Pregnancy

  • Avoid prolonged immobility: Imagine your legs as graceful ballerinas. Whether you’re sitting or standing, try not to keep them in one position for too Long. Take breaks, stretch your legs, and rotate your feet to help maintain proper circulation.

  • Elevate your feet: Give your feet the VIP treatment. When you’re resting, elevate your legs using a pillow or by propping them against a wall. This elevation helps reduce fluid accumulation in the lower body.

  • Sleep on your left side: Your body is like a well-choreographed dance, and sleeping on your left side is the perfect Move. It alleviates pressure on the inferior Vena cava, facilitating better circulation during sleep.

  • Stay cool: Imagine hot weather as the villain in this story. High temperatures can worsen swelling, so avoid them if possible. If needed, use air conditioning to create a comfortable environment.

  • Choose comfortable footwear: Your feet deserve the best shoes in town. Opt for comfortable shoes that provide support and cushioning for your swollen feet. High heels should be avoided during pregnancy.

  • Consider compression wear: Compression stockings or socks are like your dance partner, providing support and stability. They promote circulation and provide support for muscles and bones.

  • Wear loose clothing: Your clothing is like the costume for this performance. Select loose, comfortable attire that doesn’t restrict your wrists and ankles, allowing for proper blood flow.

  • Maintain a balanced diet: Your diet is the fuel for this dance. Reduce sodium intake by avoiding processed foods and include potassium-rich foods like bananas, beans, and yogurt in your diet.

  • Moderate caffeine: Caffeine can be the wild card in this dance. Limit your caffeine intake to prevent excessive urination and fluid loss.

  • Engage in regular, gentle exercise: Light physical activity can be your dance routine. It improves blood circulation and keeps the show going. However, avoid overexertion, and consult your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine.

  • Water therapy: Swimming or walking in a Pool can be your therapeutic dance. The water provides compression and relief from swelling, especially if the water is cool.


Why does edema occur in postpartum?

During pregnancy, your body produces about 50% more blood and fluids to meet your baby’s needs. This extra fluid helps your body adapt to the changes happening during pregnancy and prepares you for delivery. However, during labor, pushing can force these fluids into your face and extremities, leading to swelling. If you had a cesarean delivery, intravenous fluids can also contribute to postpartum swelling. Factors like hot weather, prolonged standing, high sodium intake, and caffeine can exacerbate swelling.

Common postpartum swelling areas

Postpartum swelling often affects the face, hands, feet, and legs. It’s essential to pay attention to these areas for any signs of discomfort. Swelling around a cesarean delivery incision or the perineum is also common but shouldn’t be accompanied by redness, increasing pain, fever, or foul odor. These symptoms could indicate an infection and require prompt medical attention.

Ways to treat swollen feet in postpartum

Managing postpartum swelling can bring relief during the early days of motherhood. Here are seven practical tips:

  • Avoid standing for too long: Prolonged standing can worsen swelling. If you must stand, take frequent breaks and elevate your feet. This elevation improves circulation and reduces fluid buildup. Avoid crossing your legs when sitting, as it restricts blood flow.

  • Wear comfortable shoes: Opt for non-restrictive shoes. High heels can strain your feet and worsen swelling. Choose shoes that provide good support and a comfortable fit. Similarly, opt for clothing that doesn’t constrict your wrists and ankles, promoting better circulation.

  • Stay hydrated: It May seem counterintuitive, but drinking water helps reduce water retention. Proper hydration supports your body in eliminating excess fluids. aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, and limit sugary drinks.

  • Say no to processed foods: Processed foods often contain high amounts of sodium, which can lead to bloating and worsen postpartum swelling. Instead, opt for a balanced diet Rich in lean protein, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Minimize your intake of sugar and table salt.

  • Keep cool: Hot weather can exacerbate swelling. On scorching days, limit your time outdoors, and seek shady spots. If you have access to a Pool, taking a dip can provide comfort and relieve swelling.

  • Use cold compresses: When you experience significant swelling, apply cold compresses to the affected areas. Cold helps constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a cloth can serve as an effective cold compress.

  • Get moving: Light exercise, such as a gentle walk, can encourage circulation and help reduce postpartum swelling. However, always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially after childbirth.

When should you worry about swelling?

During pregnancy, if you happen to notice that one side seems more swollen, you’re feeling isolated pain, or if one of your legs or feet looks discolored, it might be a sign of deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot, typically in the leg. This is a serious matter, so give your doctor a call right away if you experience any of these symptoms. 

After giving birth, it’s normal to experience some swelling, especially around your C-section incision or the perineum. If you had a C-section, just make sure to follow your doctor’s advice on how to keep your incision clean and comfy. While a bit of swelling is expected, it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs that might be cause for concern, such as:

  • Leaking discharge

  • Redness

  • Increasing pain

  • Fever

  • A not-so-pleasant odor

These could be signs of an infection, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

Remember, every pregnancy experience is unique. Be compassionate with yourself, stay hydrated, and if any concerns arise, do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider. 

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