Monday, May 20, 2024
Common Foot Problems FOOT HEALTH

Swollen Feet During Pregnancy: 8 Tips to Reduce Swollen Legs & Feet While Pregnant

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Swollen legs and feet, known as edema, are common complaints during pregnancy. Swelling can cause discomfort and be a cause for concern. In this article, you will learn eight effective strategies to manage and reduce swelling in the feet during pregnancy. 

pregnant woman walking

What Are 8 Ways to Treat Swollen Legs While Pregnant?

1) Wear Compression Socks to Reduce Swelling

Slipping into a pair of compression socks is a proven strategy to reduce swelling in the legs and feet during pregnancy. It’s important to choose stockings that are the appropriate size and provide the right degree of compression. 

Stockings with a pressure rating between 15-20mmHg or 20-30mmHg are typically adequate. This equates to the feeling of a blood pressure cuff inflated to these values on your ankles.

However, be careful when shopping online, as some brands may not deliver the advertised compression level. 

Get the Jobst Activewear 20-30mmHg compression stockings. They are known for their reliable performance. Ensure you take accurate measurements of your ankle and calf circumference for the perfect fit before making your purchase.

Wear compression stockings during the day, and remove them at night when your legs are elevated.

Remember to wash and care for them appropriately to extend their longevity. A pair of these stockings, when handled well, can provide effective compression for up to six months.

2) Increase Physical Activity to Reduce Swollen Legs

Implementing regular bouts of physical activity into your daily routine can help manage pregnancy-induced swelling. Remember, prolonged periods of inactivity, whether you’re standing or sitting with legs hanging down, exacerbate foot swelling. 

Introducing frequent leg movements can counteract this issue. Activities as simple as a brisk walk in the park or even a leisurely swim can enhance blood flow and effectively alleviate edema. 

Consider incorporating these activities into your day to help maintain a healthy circulatory system during your pregnancy journey.

3) Drink More Water to Reduce Swelling

During pregnancy, your body naturally retains more fluids, which can lead to swollen ankles and feet. One of the ways to combat this water retention is by increasing your water intake. 

Drinking more water will help your body maintain a balanced fluid level, thereby reducing foot swelling. Aim to consume about 8 to 10 glasses of water each day, or even more if recommended by your healthcare provider. 

Adequate hydration not only helps minimize swelling, but it also supports overall health by assisting with nutrient transportation, digestion, and body temperature regulation.

Read more about How Dehydration Can Cause Your Feet To Swell.

salt

4) Reduce Sodium Intake to Reduce Swelling

Managing your sodium intake is an effective approach to reducing foot swelling during pregnancy. 

While sodium is an essential mineral that aids in maintaining the balance of fluids in your body, an excessive amount can lead to water retention and swelling. High-sodium foods essentially pull water into your tissues, causing them to swell.  

Limit the consumption of processed foods, fast foods, and other high-sodium products. Instead, focus on incorporating fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your diet. 

5) Perform Cool Foot Soaks Using Epsom Salts

Taking the time to soak your feet in a cool Epsom salt bath can provide much-needed relief from swelling and discomfort. 

Epsom salts, when dissolved in water, break down into magnesium and sulfate, both of which can aid in soothing tense joints and muscles.

Immersing your feet in a refreshing, cool water bath not only brings a sense of comfort but also prompts your blood vessels to constrict slightly, thereby assisting in the reduction of swelling.

powerstep arch support

6) Modify Shoe Gear/Inserts While You Are Carrying a Baby

Make sure to purchase new shoes that offer proper support as your body changes during pregnancy. As your pregnancy advances, you may notice that your shoe size increases.

To ensure an optimal fit, consider having your feet professionally measured at a specialty shoe store or by your Podiatrist, ideally at different stages throughout your pregnancy. 

Your foot doctor will be able to provide personalized advice on the best shoe types for your unique foot structure.

If you’re experiencing arch or heel pain, consider orthotics as a solution for added support.

Get the Powerstep Protech Orthotics. Powerstep offers a range of high-quality insoles, but the Protech model stands out for its firm yet comfortable arch support.

These inserts feature a deep heel cup, providing enhanced stability while walking, and they come equipped with a ‘poron’ cushion that absorbs shock, helping to alleviate heel pain.

Before using these inserts, make sure to remove any existing shoe liners. If they’re glued or stitched, don’t worry about removing them entirely. Stitched liners are typically thin enough to leave in place.  

While Powerstep Protech Orthotics work well with a wide variety of shoes, they’re not suitable for dress shoes or very shallow, narrow shoes. 

Depending on your activity level, these inserts will last between 6 months to 1 year, with a noticeable collapse in the arch indicating that it’s time for a replacement. 

prenatal massage

7) Get a Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massages can help reduce foot swelling during pregnancy because it eliminates excess fluid and toxins, thus significantly reducing edema experienced in the feet and ankles during pregnancy.

Special attention is given to the lower legs and feet during these sessions. Therapists employ gentle strokes and careful manipulation of muscles and soft tissues, directly addressing areas of swelling. 

This targeted approach not only offers relief from physical discomfort but also enhances overall foot health. 

8) Change Your Sleeping Position

Modifying your sleeping position can greatly assist in reducing foot swelling during pregnancy. Adopting a left-side sleeping position is recommended.

When you sleep on your left side, it prevents undue pressure on the Inferior Vena Cava – a vital, large vein located on the right side of your spine. This vein is responsible for transporting deoxygenated blood from your lower body back to the heart.

Lying on your left side ensures that this blood flow isn’t impeded, thus preventing fluid from pooling in your feet and ankles. 

By enabling smoother circulation, you minimize the likelihood of waking up with swollen feet, making your mornings more comfortable.

What Causes Your Feet and Ankles to Swell During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy introduces numerous changes in your body. Your body retains more fluid during pregnancy. This is pronounced during the final trimesters.

The edema occurs when body fluids increase to nurture both you and your baby. This increased blood volume will result in fluid retention and feet swelling during pregnancy.

In addition to this, your body produces a hormone known as “relaxin” during pregnancy. This hormone plays an important role in preparing your body for childbirth by causing the ligaments, tendons, and joints to loosen. 

As a result, you might observe not just an increase in swelling, but also a slight flattening of your feet. It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to notice their feet appearing longer and wider.

Swelling in the legs and feet can also escalate if your job or daily routine requires prolonged periods of standing or sitting. This can strain your venous system, whose valves facilitate the upward flow of blood towards the heart. 

If you’re stationary for extended durations, this upward blood flow is challenged, thereby worsening swelling.

As your baby grows, the increased pressure exerted on your veins can make the return of blood from the legs to the heart even more difficult. This pressure, combined with the other factors mentioned, can contribute to swelling in the feet and ankles during pregnancy.

Who Is at Risk for foot and ankle swelling during the pregnancy birth phase?

People With a History of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that causes a sudden rise in blood pressure and leakage of protein in the urine. 

Capillary leaking will occur which results in fluid retention and swelling in the feet.

obesity

Obesity

Being obese increases your risk for preeclampsia. This will cause your feet to swell during pregnancy. 

Increased body mass index (BMI) in pregnant women can also affect the arch and length of your foot. 

History of Venous insufficiency

If you have a history of venous insufficiency with varicose veins in your legs, swelling during pregnancy will be worse. 

Maternal Age

With advanced maternal age, veins lose valve patency and vessel tone. This means that the veins are less efficient at pumping blood back to the heart. This can increase swelling in the feet during pregnancy.

How Do Your Feet Change During Pregnancy?

1) Increased Length and Width of the Foot

The amount of retained body water by full-term pregnancy averages about 6.5 liters. This fluid comes from the fetus, the uterus, the breast tissue, the placenta, and extracellular fluid. 

These factors plus hormones will cause the feet to become larger and wider. Increased fat accumulation in the feet causes your feet to become larger as well. 

After pregnancy, the previously high fluid retention in the body is reduced, however not by 100%.

This suggests that although your feet may become smaller after pregnancy, they will never be the same as before pregnancy.  

2) Arch Collapse 

As previously mentioned, arch collapse occurs due to the relaxation of your foot joints, tendons, and ligaments. 

However, increased fluid retention can also cause the foot arches to collapse further. 

3) Foot Stance Can Be Altered When Pregnant

Due to foot swelling and arch collapse, you may start to bear more weight on the back part of your feet. 

This can cause heel pain and ankle pain to develop. 

When Should You See a Health Care Provider?

It’s important  to seek advice from a healthcare provider if your foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy becomes severe, lasts for an extended period, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms. 

These can include headaches, blurred vision, rapid weight gain, or swelling more predominant on one side.  

Conclusion

Ensuring optimal foot health is an important aspect of maintaining overall well-being during pregnancy. Pregnancy-induced swollen feet and ankles are common occurrences, but their impact can be significantly reduced by implementing straightforward strategies. 

Wearing compression socks, maintaining physical activity, and elevating your feet not only lessen discomfort but also encourage improved circulation.

The insights provided in this article, which have been medically reviewed and backed by expert advice, offer comprehensive guidance on foot care for pregnant individuals. By gaining an in-depth view of what to expect during each week or trimester of pregnancy, you can make well-informed decisions about your health.  

Regular appointments with your healthcare provider with consistent monitoring of your progress week by week, ensures you receive the right care and attention for your health and your child’s health. 

It’s important to prioritize foot care in your overall strategy to improve pregnancy outcomes, and to minimize the risk of complications during the birth process.

Any concerns you have should be promptly shared with your provider. This matters pregnancy as it significantly influences your foot health and, by extension, your overall well-being during these vital weeks. 

Remember, each aspect of your pregnancy journey, including foot health, plays a significant role in the child health, making proper care important.

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References
  1. Ochalek, K., Pacyga, K., Curyło, M., Frydrych–Szymonik, A., & Szygula, Z. (2017). Risk factors related to lower limb edema, compression, and physical activity during pregnancy: a retrospective study. Lymphatic research and biology, 15(2), 166-171
  2. August, Phyllis MD, Sibai, Baha MD. (2022).  Preeclampsia: Clinical features and diagnosis. UpToDate. 
  3. Chiou, W. K., Chiu, H. T., Chao, A. S., Wang, M. H., & Chen, Y. L. (2015). The influence of body mass on foot dimensions during pregnancy. Applied Ergonomics, 46, 212-217.
  4. Ponnapula, P., & Boberg, J. S. (2010). Lower extremity changes experienced during pregnancy. The Journal of foot and ankle surgery, 49(5), 452-458
  5. Alvarez, R., Stokes, I. A., Asprinio, D. E., Trevino, S., & Braun, T. (1988). Dimensional changes of the feet in pregnancy. J Bone Joint Surg Am, 70(2), 271-4.
  6. Devis, P., & Knuttinen, M. G. (2017). Deep venous thrombosis in pregnancy: incidence, pathogenesis and endovascular management. Cardiovascular diagnosis and therapy, 7(Suppl 3), S309–S319. 

DISCLAIMER: The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Vaishnavi Bawa
Dr. Vaishnavi Bawa is a Podiatrist who specializes in treating foot and ankle pathology. LifesLittleSteps mission is to educate the public about foot health in an easy-to-understand manner using evidence-based medicine.
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