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Swollen Legs and Swelling in Pregnancy

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 29 Sep 2013 | comments*Discuss
Swollen Legs Swollen Legs And Feet

During pregnancy women normally collect more water in their bodies than they would otherwise, so a certain amount of swelling in the body and especially the legs is normal. Technically this fluid retention is called oedema and it can be noticeably worse in the third trimester and during summer heat. If you are suffering from this condition, here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding swollen legs and feet during pregnancy.

Why Do the Legs and Feet Swell During Pregnancy?

Your body collects more water during pregnancy than it would at other times, and changes in your blood chemistry help this. Also, the growth of your uterus puts pressure on veins in your pelvis which means that the return of blood to your heart will be slowed slightly. This slowing will in turn create slight pressure in your veins and cause some fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues of your legs and feet, causing swelling.

Is Swelling of the Legs and Feet Harmful to Me or My Baby?

Swelling of the legs and feet, and sometimes even the arms and hands, is common in pregnancy so do not be alarmed if you experience this. However, there are some signs of swelling that you should take seriously. Call your GP or midwife for further information and assistance if you notice:

  • Swelling in your face or around your eyes.
  • Excessive swelling of your hands (more than just a tightness of your rings).
  • Excessive and/or sudden swelling of your legs and feet (comes on within hours).
  • Swelling more in one leg than the other (a noticeable difference in the two).
  • Pain in your extremities (particularly calves or thighs).

How Long Will Swollen Legs and Feet Last?

Swollen legs and feet will likely continue throughout the pregnancy once they have started, but after the birth they should go away fairly quickly. As the pressure on your veins decreases your blood flow will become more normal and excess fluid will no longer be pushed into your tissues. Also, as your blood chemistry returns to normal, there will be less telling your body to collect water. That leaves it to you to simply excrete the extra fluid that your body has collected, which means that in the first few days after birth you may be urinating and/or sweating more than normal as your body frees itself from this fluid.

Are Swollen Legs and Feet Painful?

Most women who have experienced swollen legs and feet during pregnancy will agree that though they are uncomfortable, they are not actually in pain. Thankfully there are some steps you can take to relieving swollen legs and feet. For example:
  • Rest on your left side in bed or on the couch.
  • Sit with your feet and legs up whenever you can.
  • Drink plenty of water and urinate as often as possible.
  • Stretch your legs and feet whenever possible.
  • Do not stand for long lengths of time without a break.
  • Exercise (including walking and swimming) and eat a Healthy Diet.

How Can I hide My Swollen Legs and Feet?

Get your inner fashion critic ready, because many women agree that they feel ugly or extra-large when their legs and feet swell during pregnancy. While you will obviously need to find your own solutions to this (if you even care), there are certain fashion choices you can make that may even help swollen feet and legs. Consider:
  • Finding sandals that allow your feet to spread and breathe.
  • Investing in shoes to accommodate your swollen feet, even if it means buying a larger size than you would otherwise.
  • Avoiding high heels.
  • Wearing only socks that will not cut into your feet and legs.
  • Purchasing and wearing maternity support hose.
  • Searching for bootcut maternity pants to give you extra space in the calf area. Just don’t wear them with tight boots!
  • Buying a few long, floaty skirts to give your legs and feet plenty of space and air. Make sure that they are not so long that they will interfere with your walking though.
(For more information, read our feature What To Wear During Pregnancy.)

Swollen legs and feet could never be considered a joy of pregnancy, but they are a common symptom and usually not unduly painful or indicative of a larger problem. Grin and bear it and before long you will have both a beautiful baby and gorgeous legs!

Aching Legs

Suffering from aching legs? If so, you can read more about coping with this common pregnancy condition in our article Aching Legs and Varicose Veins.

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[Add a Comment]
Why one leg of pregnant women swell more than other ?
Bordaislkla - 29-Sep-13 @ 5:09 PM
Hello! Am in my 26weeks, and my last appointment with my doctor, after a blood test, showed that my blood level is low about 7.4 percent, and the doctor recommend iron dextran injection, twice a week for three weeks making it 6 times, and am scared it may have side effect on my baby, pls educate me more on that, as she could only say it will help to bust my blood
Ijey - 22-Mar-12 @ 5:45 PM
Hi,is there nothing e.g drugs or multi vitamin a pregnant woman can take to help fight swelling legs and hand.
Bestday - 11-Feb-12 @ 6:07 PM
Thanks, will ask my wife to read as well
joe - 7-Oct-11 @ 8:10 AM
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