Swelling (Edema) during Pregnancy - Causes, Risks & Remedies

Swelling During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Pregnancy is a magical phase of a woman’s life. If you are pregnant, you will enjoy the love and attention you will get from your loved ones, but there are some symptoms of pregnancy that might make your life difficult, thus making your pregnancy phase not-so-enjoyable. As your body will change, you may feel a bit uncomfortable. And one discomfort that you may experience will be swollen body parts. About 50% of all pregnant women have swelling in their leg region including the feet and ankles, particularly in the last few months of pregnancy, which makes their pregnancy journey difficult. Read on to know why women have swollen feet or ankles during pregnancy.

Why Do Women Have Swelling in Their Hands, Feet, and Ankles During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, a woman’s body makes fifty per cent more bodily fluids to provide for the developing baby’s needs; these fluids can cause swelling. During pregnancy, approximately twenty-five per cent of the weight gain in women is due to extra fluids. And you may notice oedema or normal swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet during this time. 

How Common Is Oedema During Pregnancy?

Oedema (swelling) during pregnancy is quite common. You may notice swelling in your legs and feet especially in the last trimester of your pregnancy. It commonly occurs especially in the last few months of pregnancy due to the water retention in your body which happens because of an increase in overall blood volume in the body.

When Does Oedema Occur?

Oedema can happen any time during pregnancy, but it is mostly noticed in the 5th month and can rise in the 3rd trimester. The following factors may also affect oedema (swelling) during pregnancy:

  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Hot weather
  • Long days of physical activity
  • Too much consumption of sodium
  • Low in potassium diets
  • Constant intake of caffeine

Causes of Swelling (Oedema) in Pregnant Women

The main cause of swelling in the body is water retention. Water retention can cause swelling of legs during pregnancy. Changes in the blood volume. The growing uterus will add stress on the pelvic veins and vena cava. The blood will slow down in the legs due to this pressure causing some of it to stagnate. This will force the fluid from the veins into the tissues of the feet and ankles. The ability to excrete water is lowered.  Women with excessive amniotic fluid or carrying multiples might notice severe swelling. It might get worst at the end of the day and during summers. The swelling, however, should quickly disappear after the delivery when the body eliminates the fluid. You might also find yourself going to the bathroom more often to pee and sweat a lot in the first few days post-delivery.


If the swelling in the legs and feet caused by oedema is mild, then it is normal and harmless. In some cases, pregnant women don’t even experience noticeable swelling. However, if your hands and/or face swells and the swelling persists for more than a day at a time, you must consult your doctor. Exorbitant oedema during pregnancy can be one of the signs of preeclampsia. It might also be accompanied by symptoms like elevated blood pressure, rapid weight gain, and protein in the urine. You don’t need to worry if your blood pressure and urine tests are normal.

When Should You Be Concerned About Swelling During Pregnancy?

Having mild swelling in the feet, ankles, or legs is not out of the ordinary. In fact, some may experience mild swelling in their hands as well. However, you should call your doctor immediately if you have these symptoms of preeclampsia:

  • Puffiness around the eyes
  • Facial swelling
  • Large or/and spontaneous swelling of feet or ankles
  • Excessive swelling in the hands
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision

Contact your physician If either leg is swollen more than the other, and if there is pain or tenderness in the calf or thigh, as it could be a sign of a blood clot.

Remedies for Swelling

There are some treatment measures that you can try to get rid of the swelling.

Contemporary Therapies or Medical Treatments

  • Aromatherapy: Cypress oil is beneficial for the circulatory system whereas lavender oil with chamomile oil can help you relax.
  • Osteopathy: It treats misalignments in the skeleton, which might be putting pressure on specific areas of the body.
  • Get a Massage: Getting a massage along the contours of the feet will help circulate the fluids accumulated in your feet, which will reduce swelling. You can use lavender essential oil for massage – it will help relax you!

Remedies You Can Try at Home

Here are some tips or remedies that you can try at home to reduce swelling in your legs and feet.

  • While sitting, avoid crossing your legs or ankles and keep stretching them from time to time.
  • Put your feet up as much as possible.
  • Stretch out your leg with the heel first then gently flex your feet to relax your calf muscles. Keep rotating your ankles and wiggle your toes.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids.
  • Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for too long.
  • Take short walks to prevent the blood from accumulating in the lower parts of your body.
  • Put on loose shoes that can stretch to accommodate the swelling in the feet.
  • Wear high-waist maternity support stockings the moment you wake up so that the blood doesn’t stagnate around the ankles.
  • Avoid wearing socks or stockings that have tight bands around the ankles or calves.
  • Make sure that you exercise daily, even if it is just for half an hour. You can practice yoga, walk, or swim. Water aerobics is also a good option as being in water can help reduce swelling temporarily, especially, if the water is up to your shoulders.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle by choosing a healthy diet, and avoid eating junk food.

How Can You Prevent Swelling?

Severe swelling can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Exercise daily and have a balanced diet. Remember that your diet should comprise of foods rich in protein such as meat, eggs, fish, pulses or beans. Five portions of fruits are also a must. You should limit the consumption of foods rich in salt, sugar, or fats. Foods rich in Vitamin C and E such as citrus fruits, red peppers, melons, potatoes, sunflower seeds, or sweetcorn are good during pregnancy, so include these in your diet and avoid eating junk food!

Having swollen feet or ankles can be irksome during pregnancy but don’t let it get you down. Oedema is a common problem and it should subside soon after delivery. Try the remedies mentioned above, if you have mild swelling in your feet and ankles. However, if you notice any symptoms of preeclampsia, consult a doctor at the earliest.

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