Swelling in Pregnancy

Is it common to have swelling during pregnancy?

Yes, it is common to have swelling during pregnancy due to the normal physiological changes associated with pregnancy. This swelling (‘oedema’) starts to be noticeable during the fifth month of pregnancy onwards especially in the legs, ankles, feet, hands and face.

Why is there increase swelling of the legs and hands during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, there is an increased production of blood and retention of fluid to meet the needs during pregnancy and of the growing baby. In addition, the growing uterus puts pressure on your pelvic veins and the vena cava (the large vein on the right side of your body which carries blood from your legs to your heart). This added pressure causes slowing of blood circulation from your legs leading to pooling and fluid forced out of the veins into the surrounding tissue causing oedema.

What could I do to reduce the severity of swelling?

  • Put your feet up whenever possible. It helps to keep a stool beside your table or a pile of books under your table to prop your legs up.
  • Avoid prolonged standing or sitting. Every once in a while, walk around to stretch your calf muscles and increase circulation
  • Avoid crossing your legs while sitting.
  • Wear comfortable shoes to accommodate the expected swelling
  • Try waist high maternity support stockings and avoid those tight stockings that are ankle or knee high.
  • Drink a lot of water. Ironically, this reduces the retention of fluid.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Do not worry too much about these swelling as it is only temporary and will subside after delivery.
  • The truth about salt. Most people believe that excessive salt could lead to retention of water. However, the opposite is also true. Hence, moderation is the key.

When should I be worried about the swelling?

  • Swelling in your ankles and feet are quite common during pregnancy. However, do seek treatment if you notice the symptoms below:
  • You noticed more swelling especially on your face, around your eyes and hands. There is a possibility of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure with protein in your urine). This is a serious condition.
  • One of your legs is more swollen, red and tender compared to the other leg. There could possibility be a blood clot in your leg. (deep venous thrombosis or DVT)


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