What causes ankle swelling during pregnancy — and what can you do about it?

What causes ankle swelling during pregnancy — and what can you do about it?


Swelling of the feet and ankles during pregnancy is caused by a variety of reasons. For begin, throughout pregnancy, your body retains extra fluid. Your expanding uterus also puts strain on your veins, preventing blood from returning to your heart. Hormonal changes are also a factor.

Swelling of the feet and ankles is typical during pregnancy and usually goes away after birth. In the interim, you might find it useful to:

  • Keep your feet off the ground. Long periods of standing should be avoided. When you have the opportunity, sit with your feet up and twist your ankles and gently flex your feet to stretch your calf muscles. Even better, lift your legs while lying down.
  • You should sleep on your left side.
    This relieves strain on the big vein that transports blood from your lower body to your heart (inferior vena cava). It might also assist if you prop your legs up with pillows.
  • Compression stockings should be worn.
    During the day, your doctor may advise you to wear supportive tights or stockings.
  • Every day, engage in some form of physical activity.
    Take walks, ride a stationary bike, or swim laps in a pool to get your heart rate up.
  • Stand or walk in the pool. Although there’s little research on the use of water pressure for foot and ankle swelling, standing or walking in a pool seems to help compress tissues in the legs and might provide temporary relief from swelling during pregnancy.
  • Wear loose clothing. Tight clothing can restrict blood flow. Don’t wear socks or stockings with tight bands on the ankles or calves.

Foot massage and reflexology, which involves applying pressure to certain areas of the feet, hands, and ears, may help reduce foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy, according to some study. Swelling does not necessitate a reduction in fluid intake. During pregnancy, the Institute of Medicine suggests drinking about 10 cups (2.4 liters) of water every day.

Although minor foot and ankle swelling is common during pregnancy, sudden, severe swelling — especially in one leg — could be a symptom of a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis). Swelling that occurs suddenly could indicate that your blood pressure is greater than normal. Both illnesses necessitate immediate diagnosis and treatment.

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