Pregnancy and you blog

Swelling in pregnancy: Where did my ankles go?

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. December 4, 2009

During pregnancy, your body produces and retains more fluid than usual. If you're like most pregnant women, you'll experience swelling in your hands, feet and legs — especially during the last few months of pregnancy. Being normal doesn't make the swelling pretty or less uncomfortable, though.

If you're bemoaning your cankles as you struggle to fit into your favorite shoes, consider ways to decrease swelling in pregnancy:

  • Prop up your feet. This works best when your feet are higher than your heart.
  • Sleep on your side. It may also help to elevate your legs with pillows. If it's tough to keep your feet on pillows all night, follow my mother's advice — place a firm pillow between your mattress and box spring for a slight elevation.
  • Take frequent breaks. Avoid standing or sitting with your feet on the floor for long periods. When you're seated, take frequent opportunities to get up and walk around — even if it's just doing a few laps around your desk or workspace.
  • Choose clothing with care. Wear loosefitting clothing and supportive tights or stockings. Avoid tight cuffs around your wrists and ankles.
  • Drink plenty of water. Contrary to popular belief, drinking fluids can help ease swelling.
  • Limit salty foods. Salty foods can contribute to water retention.

If you experience severe or sudden swelling, mention it to your health care provider right away. Excessive swelling in pregnancy can be associated with a serious condition called preeclampsia.

After the baby is born, your body will begin to get rid of the excess fluid it needed during pregnancy. It may take a week or so and the swelling may seem to get worse before it gets better, but you're sure to see your ankles and calves again.

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Dec. 04, 2009