How to Deal with Pedal Edema in Pregnancy

Our bodies start to swell because of the accumulated fluid inside of our tissues. Since swelling is related to the normal increase of fluid in the body during pregnancy, it isn't abnormal that 75% of pregnant women develop edema (swelling) at some point. And even though fluid can build up in arms and fingers as well, it primarily builds up in legs, ankles, and feet. Edema is usually harmless; however, since it can be a sign of preeclampsia, a dangerous condition that develops in some pregnant women, it should be brought up during your next medical exam.

How to Deal with Pedal Edema in Pregnancy

1. Make Sure You Aren't on Your Feet a Lot

Standing or sitting with your feet on the ground puts more pressure on your veins, which disrupts your blood's return to the heart and actually worsens your edema. Therefore, in case you are trying to reduce it, you must avoid standing or sitting for too long.

  • If you must be on your feet, make as many sitting breaks as you can and rotate your feet so that fluid can circulate better.

2. Put Your Feet Up While Resting

Try elevating your feet whenever you are resting, since it will help all blood and fluids that accumulate in your feet to flow back, and thus help reduce edema.

  • Make sure that your feet are above the level of your heart for the best results.
  • You can support your legs with pillows while sleeping.

3. Consider Getting Compression Socks

Compression socks are great for improving circulation and decreasing pedal edema in pregnancy.

  • These socks offer both light and strong pressures, and it's up to you to choose the one based on the severity of your edema.
  • You can buy them without a prescription; however, it is best you consult with your doctor prior to purchasing.
  • You can find them at your nearest pharmacy or medical supply store.

4. Avoid Wearing Tight and Uncomfortable Clothes

Tight clothes can cause you so much discomfort, especially if your wrist and ankles are swollen. Instead, try wearing loose clothes made of natural material that can give you freedom to move without feeling uncomfortable.

  • Opt for wardrobe which is made specifically for pregnant women, as it is made to suit your needs during pregnancy.
  • Avoid wearing clothing items made from cotton or merino wool since they can prevent sweating, and thus aggravate edema.

5. Try Massaging Swollen Areas

Even though this is not yet confirmed, some researchers strongly believe that massage can greatly subdue accumulation of fluid caused by pregnancy. In case it is too difficult to give yourself a massage of the areas affected by edema, try seeking help from a professional masseuse or a physical therapist.

  • Massage swollen areas in the direction of your heart to stimulate accumulated fluids to get back.
  • Use some solid pressure while massaging, but make sure it doesn't provoke you some pain.
  • If asked, your doctor should be able to recommend you a good masseuse that specializes in massage during pregnancy.

6. Do Not Go Outside If It Is Hot

When you are trying to reduce pedal edema in pregnancy, staying inside and avoiding the sun are recommended on a warm summer day since hot weather can exacerbate edema.

  • If any part of your body begins to swell while you are outside, try going somewhere cooler as soon as possible to decrease your chances of developing this condition.

7. Go for a Swim

You can go for a swim at a nearby pool, sea or ocean. Nothing will cool you down as much as water, and it will take the pressure off from your feet and ankles, thus reducing swelling. Swimming improves circulation of blood and fluids generally. If you cannot swim, don't worry! You can just float or walk in the water.

8. Use Cold Compression

Applying cold compression or ice packs to the affected areas will help decrease swelling, due to the fact that cold naturally slows down blood flow. As a bonus, you will probably notice a relief because of the numb feeling you will experience.

  • Put a cold compression onto the swollen area and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes. Treat all the affected areas, but make sure you are treating one at a time. Repeat every two hours, or whenever you need it.
  • In order to prevent any damage or frostbites, wrap ice packs in a towel before applying to the skin.

9. Reduce the Consumption of Sodium

Too much salt can do no good, including making you retain water, which can further contribute to the development of pedal edema in pregnancy. So you'd better stay clear from too much sodium while pregnant.

  • Pregnant women shouldn't consume more than 3000 milligrams of sodium a day, while those who are suffering from edema should consume even less.
  • Stay clear from foods that are rich in sodium, such as chips.
  • Eating foods that are rich in potassium, like bananas, oranges, and potatoes can help your body get rid of excess sodium.

10. Drink As Much Water As Possible

Although it sounds contradictory, drinking more water does help your body get rid of excess fluid. 

  • Drink 10 cups of water a day, which amounts to two and a half liters. You can drink even more if you are physically active, or just like drinking it.
  • Avoid drinks that are full of sugar, such as soda.

11. Work Out on a Daily Basis

Any cardio exercise, such as walking, running, swimming, or cycling, can help you get rid of excess fluids, as well as keep your blood flowing. Therefore, to reduce any edema you might be experiencing, try to do physical activity on a daily basis. Of course, you must consult with your doctor beforehand to determine whether it is safe for you to exercise.

  • Aim for at least half an hour of exercise a day. In case you were pretty active prior to getting pregnant, you can ask your doctor if it is alright to maintain your old tempo.

When to See a Doctor:

If the above-mentioned methods end up not working for you, it's recommended you talk to your doctor. He or she can determine if some other medical conditions like preeclampsia are present, and can prescribe you some diuretics to help you get rid of excess fluids.

  • If your swelling starts increasing drastically, contact your medical professional as soon as possible! This can be a sign of preeclampsia and high blood pressure which are very dangerous conditions.
  • You should also contact your medical professional in case you experience symptoms such as a headache that doesn't go away after rest or taking a pain reliever, and see spots, nausea accompanied with vomiting, as well as excruciating pain in the upper side of your stomach.
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