Pregnancy is the time where a woman’s body changes dramatically. Some women enjoy every moment of this, but others can suffer from uncomfortable symptoms leaving them feeling fed up and frustrated. One of the most common side effects of pregnancy is swollen ankles and feet, which can be uncomfortable, painful, debilitating and unexpected, particularly if it is your first pregnancy.
Here Dr Asma Khalil, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital, part of HCA UK, explains the causes of swollen ankles, how to manage the swelling and advice on how to avoid experiencing this symptom.
Why do our ankles and feet swell during pregnancy?
Dr Asma Khalil explains, “During pregnancy, the female body retains a lot more fluid than usual, which leads to swelling. In addition, because the uterus continues to grow, this puts pressure on our veins affecting blood flow in our legs. You’ll notice that the ankles and feet are usually more noticeably swollen at the end of the day, particularly if you have been standing for a long period of time or if it’s warmer. This is because the heat can cause the blood vessels to expand, allowing fluid to flow into the tissue in your ankles and feet.”
How can I avoid the swelling?
Dr Asma Khalil explains, “To try to avoid the swelling, it is recommended that you don’t spend long periods of time standing up. Comfort is key in pregnancy, so make sure your shoes and clothes feel good and aren’t too tight and uncomfortable. Lying down is important for easing the pressure on your feet but do try and make sure your feet are propped up as this takes away some pressure from the pelvic floor and could also help prevent varicose veins. Drinking lots of water is also very important as keeping hydrated will help your body get rid of excess fluid as well as toxins.”
How to manage the swelling?
Dr Asma Khalil explains, “In addition to the above, foot exercises and massages can really help as they will encourage the flow and circulation of blood around the area whilst also preventing cramps in the calf muscles. Although it’s important to lie down to ease the pressure on your ankles and feet, regular walks can also increase blood flow, easing the pressure of the swelling. If your ankles feel swollen and hot, cold compresses onto the areas could be another option too.”
Are there any other warning signs I should look out for?
Dr Asma Khalil explains, “It’s important to remember that although the swelling is likely to be uncomfortable, it shouldn’t be harmful to the baby at all. However, there are certain signs you should be aware of if accompanied with swelling. If the swelling comes very suddenly or gives you a strong headache you should mention it to your doctor/midwife. In addition, blurry vision, vomiting and pain just below your ribs should always be checked by a medical professional too.”
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