How to Minimize Swelling During Pregnancy

Three Methods:Coping with the SwellingChanging Your LifestyleRecognizing when Medical Care is Needed

Swelling is a normal part of pregnancy. To accommodate your expanding body, you produce additional blood and fluid. The retention of fluid helps open pelvic tissue and joints to allow for labor and delivery. As a pregnant woman, you may experience swelling, also known as edema, in your face, legs, feet, ankles and hands. There are many ways to manage and lessen swelling during pregnancy.

Method 1
Coping with the Swelling

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    Wear compression stockings and comfortable footwear. As swelling often occurs around the feet and ankles, take care in how you treat your feet during pregnancy. Select proper footwear and ask your doctor about compression stockings.
    • Your healthcare provider may be able to recommend a brand of tight, compression stockings during the day. Such stockings can help reduce swelling and provide needed support to your legs during pregnancy.[1]
    • You should also be careful about what kind of shoes you wear. Tight fitting shoes or heels can restrict blood flow to the feet, making swelling and related pain worse. Stick with comfortable, loose-fitting flats and tennis shoes.[2]
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    Use cold compresses. Pressing a cold compress to the swollen areas can help reduce swelling and lessen the pain. You can use a cold washcloth, a bag of ice wrapped in a paper towel, or buy an ice pack at the supermarket. Remember, ice and store-bought ice packs should never go directly on the skin. Make sure you wrap it in a cloth or paper towels before use.[3]
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    Rest your feet. Resting your feet during pregnancy can also help lessen pain and swelling. Make sure you stay off your feet and know the proper ways to rest your legs after a long day.
    • Try not to stand for too long. If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet for long hours, talk to your boss about making accommodations during your pregnancy.[4]
    • When you get a chance to sit down, elevate your feet and occasionally roll the ankles. If possible, lie down with your feet elevated.[5]
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    Stand or walk in a pool. Standing or walking in shallow pool can help compress the tissues in your legs and ankles. For some women, this seems to reduce pain and swelling. If you do not have a pool, consider buying a plastic child's pool from the store and filling it with cool water.[6]

Method 2
Changing Your Lifestyle

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    Sleep on your side. When sleeping, shifting your weight to the side can help alleviate symptoms of swelling. Your inferior vena cava is a large vein that helps with blood flow throughout the body. Sleeping on your side can take pressure off this vein. This can help encourage blood flow and prevent swelling. It also might help to elevate your legs slightly when you sleep.[7]
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    Minimize salt and caffeine intake. Salt and caffeine can encourage swelling during pregnancy. They can also lead to other health issues, like high blood pressure, that could have a negative impact on your overall pregnancy.
    • Minimize your overall salt intake. This can be achieved fairly easily by avoiding processed food and not adding additional table salt to your meals. Salt can cause water retention and raise blood pressure and elevated blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to a number of health effects for you and your baby.[8]
    • The effect on caffeine in pregnancy is not yet fully understood as many studies are inconclusive or produce conflicting results. However, it is advised pregnant women not consume more than 200 mg of caffeine a day. This is equal to about one 12 ounce cup of coffee. Be aware caffeine is also in teas, chocolates, and some over-the-counter medications. Always read labels to watch for caffeine. If you're experiencing swelling, however, you might want to reduce your caffeine intake further and see if it helps.[9]
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    Drink water. Water intake can help reduce water retention, which can have a positive effect on reducing swelling overall. If you're pregnant, it's recommended you drink 10 cups, or 2.3 liters, of water each day. Doing so may help with swelling.[10]
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    Take precautions when traveling. Sitting too long in a car or airplane can cause discomfort and swelling even if you're not pregnant. The effects are more intense during pregnancy. Try to take frequent breaks when traveling to get up and walk around periodically if you travel during pregnancy.[11]
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    Exercise. Strive to stay physically active throughout pregnancy to reduce swelling and have a healthy pregnancy overall. Talk to your healthcare provider about what workout routines are safe for you and your baby.
    • Exercise to the legs is particularly important to reduce swelling. Walking during pregnancy is usually a healthy, safe activity that does not negatively affect most pregnant women.[12]
    • Discuss other activities you might want to engage in with your doctor. Some mild Pilates, yoga, and aerobics might be okay at certain stages of pregnancy depending on your fitness level, overall health, and pregnancy.[13]
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    Stay cool. Warm weather can make swelling during pregnancy worse as it may lead to increased dehydration and water retention. If you live in a warm area, you should make sure you have access to air conditioning during your pregnancy, especially if you're pregnant over the summer months. Stay indoors if it gets too hot or make a trip to the pool or beach.[14]

Method 3
Recognizing when Medical Care is Needed

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    Mention swelling to your doctor. While swelling is not normally a medical concern during pregnancy, any changes should be monitored by your doctor. Mention any unusual swelling you experience during routine visits. Even if the swelling is not a cause for concern, your doctor may be able to offer suggestions on how to better handle it.[15]
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    Recognize the warning signs of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a medical condition where blood pressure becomes elevated during pregnancy. This is a serious medical concern as it can affect the liver, kidneys, and placenta. Your swelling may be a sign of preeclampsia and you should make an appointment with a doctor if it's accompanied with any of the following symptoms:[16]
    • Swelling around the belly
    • A sudden increase in swelling
    • A headache that will not go away
    • Vision problems
    • Swollen hands and face
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    Seek immediate medical care if necessary. In some cases, swelling can become an emergency. It might be a sign of a serious, possibly life threatening complication with your pregnancy. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:[17]
    • You feel short of breath.
    • You have chest pains.
    • You have a preexisting heart or kidney disease the swelling suddenly gets worse
    • A swollen foot or leg is warm to the touch.
    • You have a sudden increase in swelling


  • Although ankle and lower leg swelling is common, never assume that hand or face swelling is normal without discussing with a physician. This is a common presentation of pre-eclampsia.

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Categories: Pregnancy