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Swollen Feet & Ankles During Pregnancy: Edema & More

Swelling in Pregnancy, Edema & More

Feeling puffy? Understand what causes pregnancy swelling and get six steps to relief. Some amount of swelling, also known as edema, during pregnancy is normal, especially in the ankles, feet, and hands. Here’s what to watch for, plus simple ways to minimize pregnancy swelling.

Feeling More Puffy Than Usual? Blame Pregnancy Swelling

Swelling in pregnancy is very common. Your hands, legs, and even your face can be affected, but feet and ankles tend to be the most impacted areas.

Approximately 25 percent of the weight most women gain during pregnancy can be attributed to the extra fluids.”


Edema in pregnancy is usually very normal. It can be caused by the additional blood and fluids—approximately 50 percent more—that your body produces to meet the needs of your developing baby. Fluid retention helps your body expand as your baby grows, and it usually resolves after delivery. In the meantime, there are steps you can take to keep pregnancy swelling to a minimum.

When Does Swelling Start in Pregnancy?

Although pregnancy swelling can be experienced at any time, it’s often most noticeable around the fifth month of pregnancy and can increase during the third trimester.

How to Prevent Swelling During Pregnancy

While various factors may influence the puffiness you feel during pregnancy. There are several factors that can make edema worse.

  • High temperatures
  • Too much time on your feet
  • Too much activity
  • Not enough potassium
  • Too much caffeine
  • Too much sodium

How Can I Reduce Swelling During Pregnancy?

While some swelling during pregnancy can be expected, there are steps you can take to help minimize the amount of swelling you experience.

Tips to help reduce swelling during pregnancy:

Tip #1: Watch the foods you eat.

"It’s smart to eat foods that are high in potassium (bananas are one example) and limit caffeine and sodium. A prenatal supplement can also help you reach your potassium target during pregnancy (4.7 grams)."


Tip #2: Drink more, not less.

"Drinking water can reduce fluid retention by flushing out your system. Experts recommend about 12 cups (3 liters) a day."


Tip #3: Limit time on your feet.

"If feet swelling during pregnancy is a problem for you, avoid standing for extended periods of time and keep your feet elevated whenever possible."


Tip #4: Sleep on your side.

"Try to sleep on your left side to take the pressure off your inferior vena cava, the large vein responsible for transporting blood from the lower half of your body to your heart."


Tip #5: Adjust your wardrobe.

"Choose comfortable shoes over high heels. And ask your doctor if compression stockings or tights could provide added support to ease swelling."


Tip #6: Find cool relief.

"To lessen pregnancy swelling and any discomfort, apply cold compresses to swollen areas. Some experts also suggest taking to the pool for relief—the water pressure may help compress tissue in the legs, providing some temporary relief from swelling."


When Should I Be Concerned About Swelling During Pregnancy?

Some swelling during pregnancy is normal. Sudden swelling in your face and hands or around the eyes could be a red flag for a serious condition called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is excessive swelling and accompanied by other symptoms such as high blood pressure and high levels of protein in your urine. Be sure to check with your doctor immediately if you notice any such inflammation, they will need to perform other tests to confirm a diagnosis.

Also of concern is sudden and painful swelling in only one leg during pregnancy, as it could signify a blood clot, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT tends to only affect one leg, usually the left leg and will likely cause a feeling of heaviness or pain when standing. Your skin may also be red or warm to the touch around the area of concern. You should seek prompt evaluation and treatment from your doctor if you suspect DVT as it is a life-threatening condition.

Most swelling during pregnancy is typical of the normal changes your body experiences when pregnant. Explore more about pregnancy nutrition and what to expect developmentally.

All information on Enfamil, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge and is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment, care, or help because of information you have read on Enfamil.