Pregnancy is a wonderful time between you and your baby. Although, sometimes the symptoms that go along with pregnancy can be irritating, annoying, and down right painful. Swelling is such a common symptom during pregnancy that most people think it’s inevitable. While it is normal during pregnancy, it doesn’t have to take over your body! Here are some simple ways to decrease swelling during pregnancy that you may not have thought of!
Why do pregnant women swell anyway?
Well the answer is multifaceted. Swelling is not an abnormal occurrence in pregnancy. In fact, it is normal and healthy; it helps the body expand and get ready for baby! Swelling during pregnancy can be cause by a number of different factors, and can be worsened or made better by doing certain things as well.
Your body (most often your legs, ankles and feet) are more likely to get swollen during pregnancy because:
( a.) you’ve got a bit more blood and fluid during pregnancy because the baby needs the extra support.
(b.) you’ve got a baby and a big ole belly squishing down on the vessels that return blood from your legs to your heart.
(c.) extra pregnancy hormones on board help the body to retain some fluid.
Some swelling and extra fluid is good and needed. But you may be doing things that you don’t even realize that are making your swelling worse than it should be.
Swelling During Pregnancy- here’s what you’re probably doing to make it worse, and what to do instead.
You are doing all the things for everybody.
You are doing too much and pushing yourself too hard. It’s hard not to push yourself when you don’t feel like it, especially when you have a family and other kids to take care of, or if you have a full time job.
Instead: find ways to take breaks and take care of YOU during the day. Explain to everyone that you can’t do as much as you usually can right now and even schedule breaks into your day to relax calmly for 10 minutes at a time.
You are standing too much.
This goes along with trying to do too much. Standing on your feet most of the day will make swelling worse because of all the reasons mentioned before, plus, gravity if pulling that extra fluid downward and keeping it stuck in your feet, ankles and legs.
Instead: as above, schedule breaks throughout your day to sit, relax, and put your feet up (literally). This will help gravity to not get such a hold on keeping that fluid down in your legs, and it will go back to your heart and kidneys to get filtered out of your body.
You are sitting too much.
Much the same as above, when you are sitting too much, gravity continues to pull fluid down into your legs. The added complication of pregnancy though, is that you have a larger baby bump compressing the shallow vessels that are trying to return blood from your legs to your heart. Sitting makes this job all the harder.
Instead: get up and walk around every 30 minutes or so, and when you have to sit, elevate your feet on a stool so that they aren’t just on the ground.
You are not exercising enough.
This goes along with standing and sitting too much- but has one added caveat. If you don’t contract your leg muscles as much during the day as you normally do, you are not helping your body to get rid of the excess fluid.
Instead: plan some regular exercise (with your dr.’s permission) like: walking, jogging, swimming, yoga, light weights (lower body is most helpful), or anything else that uses your lower body that you love to do. Being active requires your leg muscles to contract and helps a lot to push excess fluid up and out of your legs.
You are not drinking enough water.
During pregnancy, your body needs more water for the increased needs of both mom and baby. It’s easy though to get busy and not drink enough water throughout the day. This seems a bit counterintuitive though, right? You have too much water in your body, and now I am telling you to drink more?
Well, the reason is, that if you are dehydrated, your body is going to hold on to the water that it has and not release it through the kidneys (kind of like a defense mechanism). But if you give your body regular water intake, it’s going to relax and start putting out the unneeded portion as it should.
Instead: grab a cute but huge water bottle (I have and LOVE this Nalgene bottle) that you can take with you everywhere so you’ll never not have water. I have found that if I have my water bottle with me, i’ll always drink it, but if I leave it at home, I won’t stop to get water somewhere, I’ll just go without!
Check out a super helpful article on how to trick yourself into drinking more water.
You are drinking too much caffeine.
I love my coffee as much as the next person, but when I drink coffee, or pop (soda for you southerners) I notice that I swell a bit more. This is because I tend to drink these things instead of water and then dehydrate myself.
Instead: limit the caffeine drinks to 1-2 per day (or whatever your dr. recommends) and drink water the rest of the day. If you can’t stand drinking plain water, and want a bit of flavor, check out my tips in my water article.
You are eating too many processed foods.
Life gets busy, and often fast and easy processed foods, or eating out seem much more appealing than cooking a meal at the end of the day. But you’re not helping your swelling by eating too much processed foods since it is usually high in either salt, fat, or sugar- or all three! These substances help the body to retain water instead of getting rid of it.
Instead: plan ahead and have foods on hand that are natural diuretics (encourage your body to get rid of water). These foods include, “asparagus, celery, artichokes, carrots, watermelon, cucumber, tomato, parsley, eggplant, cranberry juice, cabbage, apple cider vinegar, beets, ginger, brussels sprouts, and lemon.” (Source)
You are not taking enough baths!
You heard me right, this is your excuse to take a nightly bath! This is most safe in the second trimester and beyond– but as your Dr. If he clears it, grab some epsom salts and some yummy smelling essential oils like rosemary, lavender, or tea tree oil, and soak in relaxation nightly. This type of bath will help to get rid of excess fluids!
You are not eating enough protein.
During the later stages of pregnancy your protein needs increase. Protein in the blood also helps to thicken it and draw excess fluid out of the tissues it passes by. Try to eat about 70-100 grams of protein every day.
If you have trouble getting this amount in daily, you can try a protein powder in different flavors to drink alone, or add into a smoothie.
You are not getting a massage often enough.
This is your excuse to go get a massage! Massages are not only relaxing, but they can help to compress the tissues and push out excess fluids.
Instead: schedule a massage every couple weeks!
Do you have any other ways to get rid of swelling that are unique? Let me know in the comments below!
Otherwise, check out some other articles on pregnancy: