a common complaint among pregnant women; swollen ankles and puffy joints. But what makes it happen, and what can you do
about it, if anything? Before we answer
the “how”, let’s first let’s take a look at what we’re dealing with.
Edema – The collection of excess fluid in human tissue.
Ok. Ew, right? It does sound a bit gross, but don’t feel too embarrassed. Being pregnant means dealing with quite a few unpleasant and less than flattering issues. This is just one more on the list.
problem occurs when a woman’s body begins to retain water. Due to the chemical changes in an expecting
mother’s blood, the fluid is shifted automatically to the tissue just beneath
the epidermis (skin), specifically, the tissue surrounding digits, joints,
legs, and feet.
Why these areas?
A pregnant body works
differently than a non-pregnant body.
Very differently. A pregnant
women’s uterus will place pressure on the veins surrounding your pelvic area as
it expands with the baby. These veins,
normally responsible for circulating blood back from your lower limbs to your
heart, will be forced to slow down.
Slowing this process down means the fluids in your body are forced to
“hang out”, so to speak, in your digits, joints, arms, and legs until finally
working its way back to the intended location.
Essentially, these areas of
your body that are swollen are backed up, and being used as a waiting
area. If you have ever noticed that
lying on your side alleviates the discomfort, that is because the pressure is
relived, allowing the fluids to flow properly to their destination. In fact, because the vena cava is on the
right side of your body, lying on your left-side often works best.
After childbirth, your body
releases a large amount of fluids, therefore relieving the pressure nearly all
at once. This also happens to cause the
mildly annoying side effect of frequent urination and sweating in the first few
days after labor.
Is this normal for everyone?
While a certain amount of
edema is expected in the expecting, anything that appears to be more than a
light touch of puffiness in the face, around the eyes, or in the hands should
be mentioned to your doctor or midwife.
You may also need to become concerned if the puffy skin in your legs and
ankles becomes extreme. Preeclampsia is
a serious condition in which the pressure that causes these fluids to build up
in your body is too strong. Another sign
you may be suffering from this condition is the occurrence of tender
calves. Do not become highly alarmed,
but stay alert and speak to your caretaker frequently about your condition.
Though not sure-fire cures,
these tips may help lighten the pressure and temporarily relieve some
Always elevate your feet. Fighting gravity by propping your extremities on a stool, chair, or a pile of books is always a simple and effective means of easing the tension.
Stretch, flex, and wiggle away. The more movement in your limbs, joints, and digits, the more movement in the fluids.
Don’t get too comfortable. It is important to change the pace a bit from time to time. Don’t sit or stand for too long. Alternating these things will keep your body moving and circulating more efficiently.
Comfort is key. If your shoes are too tight, hard, or at an awkward angle, you could be discouraging fluid movement, and actually worsening the issue.
Firm things up a bit. By wearing firm, supportive maternity leggings, you can help prevent complications in your blood flow by smoothing out any areas where your blood might naturally pool.
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Water is good for just about every health issue known to man, and that goes for this one as well.
Exercising is another way to get things moving. However, always consult your doctor before starting any routine. Your stage of pregnancy will determine how much you can actually do without harming yourself or the baby.
Like water, healthy fruits, meats, and veggies can offer a boost of energy and increase the blood flow. However, I must stress again the importance of consulting your doctor first. Certain foods can actually complicate pregnancies more than help them along.
This blog post was provided by Stephanie Parker - our blog writer extraordinaire!