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Pregnancy Edema

How to deal with edema during pregnancy

Edema refers to the swelling that results from an accumulation of fluid. There is a natural and normal relationship between edema and pregnancy because the volume of fluid, particularly blood, in a pregnant woman's body undergoes a massive increase -- up to 50 percent -- which in turn commonly leads to swelling of the hands, feet, legs and face. This increase in fluid is to support the fetus and help the body expand as the fetus grows, so women usually notice that they experience more severe edema late in pregnancy. Fluid levels return to normal fairly quickly post-pregnancy, so in general women can expect their edema to be gone within a couple of weeks after giving birth.

Treatment and Prevention of Edema in Pregnancy

Edema can be extremely uncomfortable -- not to mention make it difficult for you to put on your shoes. Fortunately, there are many strategies you can use to minimize the swelling in your extremities as you wait for the day your baby arrives, including:

  • Don't eat a lot of salty foods or snacks, as sodium encourages water retention, which increases swelling
  • Don't wear clothes that are tight around the wrists or legs and could restrict circulation, such as socks with tight bands
  • Avoid standing up or sitting down for long periods of time; alternating sitting with short walks or other gentle activity is best
  • Elevate your hands and/or feet when swollen
  • Drink water frequently
  • Stay cool as much as possible by avoiding being out in the sun or heat for too long and by applying cool compresses

When Pregnancy Edema Can Be Dangerous

For pregnant women, a certain amount of swelling of the hands, feet, legs and even face is to be expected and is perfectly normal, especially during the third trimester. Edema during pregnancy should occur fairly evenly on both sides of the body, so if you experience a significant increase in swelling on one side, contact a health professional immediately. Similarly, if you notice any sudden increase in swelling, or if an increase in swelling is accompanied by serious stomach pain, dizziness, severe headache or blurred vision, seek immediate medical attention.

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