Pregnancy is a beautiful phase in life with its own pros and cons.
While the pros outnumber the cons, there are several discomforts associated with pregnancy that can take a toll on the pleasure of motherhood.
Morning sickness, nausea, gas, backaches and swollen feet can bring you to tears.
In particular, swelling of the feet, also known as edema, can be a nightmare. Your shoes may not fit right and you may feel pain while walking.
Edema in the feet can occur at any stage of pregnancy, but it can get severe during the third trimester.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, swelling is a normal part of pregnancy that is caused by additional blood and fluid that the body produces to meet the needs of the developing baby (1).
These fluids build up and lead to swelling in the ankles, legs and feet. As the baby grows, it exerts extra pressure on the veins, and the return of blood to the heart from the ankles and feet slows down. This causes fluids to pool up in the lower parts of the body. However, swelling can also appear on your face, fingers, neck and lower back.
Swollen feet during pregnancy can also occur due to summertime heat, standing for long periods of time, long days of activity, a diet low in potassium, a high level of caffeine consumption and high sodium intake.
While swelling in the feet generally causes no harm to the expectant mother, for some women it can be a characteristic sign of developing a serious condition known as preeclampsia.
So, it is important to consult your doctor if you experience swelling that comes on suddenly, excessive swelling in the face, skin pitting, high blood pressure, severe headaches and decreased urine output.
For those with basic edema, there are a few ways to relieve the discomfort of your swollen tootsies.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for swollen feet during pregnancy.
1. Enjoy Walking
Walking can help deal with swollen feet when you are pregnant. It can help relieve fluid retention in several ways.
First of all, there is continuous contracting and pumping of the leg muscles when you walk. This helps the extra fluid get squeezed out of your tissues. Secondly, the elevated heart rate increases the blood circulation in your legs, which helps flush the fluid out of your extremities.
As an added bonus, regular walking ensures you are strong and have lots of endurance when it is time for delivery.
Walking is a safe activity to continue throughout all nine months of the pregnancy. Start with a slow walk and gradually increase your pace as well as the duration, from 20 to 60 minutes.
2. Elevate Your Feet
Keeping your feet elevated can also help deal with swelling during pregnancy.
It helps maintain proper blood circulation, prevents the pooling of fluids in the feet and facilitates elimination of waste products.
Elevation also provides relief from discomforts like inflammation and pain.
- Prop your feet up on cushions or pillows when you sleep.
- If sitting, use an ottoman or stool and put your feet on it.
At the same time, avoid standing for long periods of time and stay off your feet when you can.
3. Use an Epsom Salt Foot Soak
Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) may not only help with swelling on the feet but also in dealing with muscle pain. Epsom salt draws out toxins and induces relaxation.
The warm water will help increase the blood circulation in your feet.
- Fill a small tub with lukewarm water.
- Add ½ cup of Epsom salt and stir it well.
- Feel free to add a couple drops of lavender, rose, rosemary or wintergreen essential oil.
- Soak your feet in this tub until the water goes cold.
- Repeat up to 3 times a week.
4. Massage Your Feet
Massage can be great for swollen feet and can also promote relaxation.
Massaging with gentle strokes creates pressure on the affected skin and muscle areas. This activates the lymphatic system and the fluid drains away naturally. A good massage can also help you relax and refresh your mood, which is quite essential for pregnant women.
Massage from your feet upward toward your heart with firm strokes and some pressure.
As massaging your feet on your own can be difficult during advanced pregnancy, you can ask someone to massage them for you.
5. Monitor Your Salt Intake
High blood pressure can contribute to edema during pregnancy. To lower your blood pressure, you need to monitor your salt intake.
The body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly, but excess salt will only cause damage to the body.
- Do not add too much salt to foods when cooking. Instead, use herbs and spices to add flavor to your dish.
- Avoid processed foods, fast food and sports drinks, which are high in sodium even if they don’t taste salty.
- Avoid canned foods, as they are often high in sodium.
6. Go Swimming
Swimming is another light exercise that can be helpful in dealing with the discomforts of swollen feet during pregnancy.
Just a few laps in the pool can enhance the fluid movement in your body, and a little pressure of water during swimming can help push water from the tissues to your veins. This is turn relieves the edema.
Swimming also takes the weight off your back, so it helps with back and hip pain, too.
Swimming is not harmful to your baby, and it is usually safe to swim throughout your pregnancy, right up until your baby’s birth.
7. Practice Prenatal Yoga
Prenatal yoga also helps by improving circulation and reducing water retention.
It also can be very helpful in strengthening the leg muscles, which in turn increases their effectiveness at pushing fluids out of your extremities.
Apart from reducing edema, it can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, increase the strength of muscles needed for childbirth and reduce lower back pain.
During pregnancy, it is recommended that you join prenatal yoga classes rather than doing it on your own.
8. Eat Potassium-Rich Foods
Foods high in potassium can help remove sodium from the body and maintain the salt-to-water ratio in the body.
Sodium causes water retention, so eating potassium-rich foods can be very helpful to prevent or get rid of edema of the feet during pregnancy.
An adequate amount of potassium also helps keep your blood pressure under control.
A pregnant woman should aim for 2,000 to 4,000 mg of potassium a day.
Some foods high in potassium include bananas, avocados, figs, romaine lettuce, scallions, watercress, celery, blackstrap molasses, papaya, parsley, rhubarb, artichokes, carob, kiwi, prune juice, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, cabbage, dill, arugula and endive.
9. Increase Your Magnesium Intake
In many cases, water retention or swelling in the body can be due to a magnesium deficiency. In such a scenario, eating foods high in magnesium can help.
Consuming 200 to 400 mg of magnesium daily can help with swelling in the feet during pregnancy.
Magnesium-rich foods to add to your diet include almonds, tofu, cashews, spinach, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, broccoli and avocados.
A diet high in magnesium may also help lower high blood pressure. It will even help prevent the uterus from contracting prematurely.
10. Stay Hydrated
Most of the swelling in your feet during pregnancy is caused by an imbalance of sodium and water. This imbalance may affect your body’s ability to maintain a comfortable temperature and you may feel hot most of the time.
In such a case, drinking more water will actually help. It will help get rid of excess fluids and even help your kidneys function properly.
Drink an ample amount of water to keep the body hydrated. To maximize the benefit of drinking water, just add a dash of lemon to it. Lemon has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce swelling more rapidly.
At the same time, drink less caffeine. It is a diuretic, which means it increases the amount of fluid you eliminate through urine. However, it also causes dehydration.
- Do not cross your legs, as it cuts off the circulation of blood from your thighs into your feet.
- Wear comfortable shoes and completely avoid heels.
- Whether sleeping or resting, lying on your left side can help increase circulation in your body, which will help reduce swelling in your feet.
- Eat a balanced diet, so that you put on a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy.
- Eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Smoking may contribute to swelling, which is another good reason to quit during pregnancy.
- Rest as much as possible and try to get the much-needed 7 to 8 hours of good sleep each night.
- Avoid clothes that are tight around your wrists or ankles.
- Consult your obstetrician before taking any supplements or increasing your activity level.
- Swelling During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/swelling-during-pregnancy/. Published January 27, 2016.