Edema in a Nutshell
While you are pregnant, your body seems like a construction site. It is changing and growing and muscles are stretching, your blood pressure can alter, weird things happen like excessive hair growth thanks to those wonderful hormones, and all of a sudden foods you once loved are now making you sick.
To provide for your babies needs, your body is works hard to produce around 50% ish percent more blood/body fluids. This is, in part, why pregnant women often have their gums bleed easily, and swelling. Swelling typically doesn´t show in your hands, feet, face until later in your pregnancy (often waiting until week 38). The swelling is referred to as edema. If it is just your typical amount without raising blood pressure, edema is not TOO serious, but does become overwhelming to deal with especially when your shoes don´t fit.. no, not even sandals…and the pain from the swelling can feel like your body is bruised all over. The discomfort is the main down fall.
When edema IS SERIOUS
Swelling in your hands and feet can be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Typically you can have pre-eclampsia if your blood pressure was fine up until a certain point when it spiked and you have swelling in your feet and hands. This is a very serious condition which is why if you have swelling, your doctor will be monitoring your blood pressure like a hawk.
A Little Background on My Edema
Knox was transverse breech and was on my left side majority of my pregnancy. I used to always say it was because he wanted to listen to my heart.. Anyways, I began swelling at week 13, and the swelling began only on my left side. My blood pressure (which was monitored CLOSELY) was great, I drank GOBS of water, I exercised regularly (I was a coach, so 2 class periods of the school day were spent playing volleyball in addition to the 2-3 miles I would walk each day). The swelling was contained mostly from my hips down, but it ended up being the main reason I was placed on bed rest at 36 weeks.
Now, like I said earlier, I only swelled from my hips down with Knox. The following picture was taken week 30 and you can see that the rest of my body is not overly swollen… aside from that gigantic belly I got going on..
With Aspen (my second baby) I did not begin to swell until week 30, and even though I was a different type of active with her from how I was with my pregnancy with Knox, (hence the whole, chasing around a 1 year old wild child), I had only gained 12 pounds up to this point- really I was only up 12 pounds until week 34. Then in ONE week (from my check up halfway through week 33 to week 35) I went from gaining only 12 pounds to gaining 29!!!! It was a 17 pound weight gain and the drastic jump was obvious by looking at me. My ENTIRE BODY would hold an indention from being pressed on. My shins and feet were the WORST!! I could push into them with my finger a knuckle deep, and the indention would remain for minutes. MIND BLOWING! When I went in for my c section I had retained so much water weight that my final weight gain was 46.2 pounds and my feet and shins had stretch marks forming from the tightness caused from swelling. (They never fully formed, so they did not remain.. it was just very freaky to witness happening in what seemed like, over night).
What you can do to reduce swelling:
- Stay off your feet AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE-—>> Meaning don´t stand up just to stand and be on your feet.. Take advantage of the ¨but I´m pregnant¨ card and have your hubby load that dishwasher.
- MOVEMENT- Moving can help get the blood flow and excess fluid back to your heart. Try using bands, similar to these. The technique is to place your heel in the band and hold on to the other side with your hands. Then, lay on your side and use your leg and foot to draw the letters of the alphabet. This works to add movement, increase circulation, loosen muscles, establish balance, and pump your blood at a faster rate… In other words- all good things.
- ELEVATE, ELEVATE, ELEVATE!!! When you elevate, you really need to get your legs and feet ABOVE your heart, meaning, lay down when you can. When you´re in the car, lay the seat back if possible to prop your feet on the dashboard. (Not advised to attempt while driving)
- Drink Water
- Reduce your salt intake
- Heat Epsom salts in warm water and soak/massage your feet- Try adding essential oils or even some citrus to help relax.
- Massage!! Yay for the favorite of mine! I also would freeze a water bottle and roll it down my legs and then stand to roll the arch of my foot on it.. This loosened the muscles, helped me to relax if I had been on my feet, and the cold was a great welcome to my tight, stretched too far skin.
These tips did their best to help ease my swelling and allow me to still really love being pregnant regardless of the pain in my lower body. Many people try to elevate their legs at work in a chair that is at the same level as the one they sit in—-> This also has its cons because you are forming a 90 degree angle at your hips. I learned that one the hard way because it was as if my circulation was non existent in my legs, and the swelling was outrageous.
Lastly, Pay attention to your body.. you know it better than anyone. You know your limits, and pregnancy is not the time to push them. Keep moving. If you are sitting in a car for long drives- stop every few hours to stretch and make certain there are no blood clots forming behind your knee.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions! Join my subscription list to receive my weekly email of tips, tricks, blog posts, and maybe even life updates for me.