Swollen extremities in pregnancy and simple lifestyle changes that may help
The tears of joy.
Such a beautiful time in a woman’s life. Without taking away from the miracle pregnancy is and the joy it brings, you would agree that there are a few discomfiting conditions the pregnant body has to navigate.
A common symptom most pregnant women have to deal with, especially as they approach the third trimester, would be swollen extremities.
Medically, this is known as edema, that is an increase in the size of some visible parts of the body, like the feet, fingers and face.
A certain degree of swelling is normal, even expected in pregnancy, due to an increase in blood and bodily fluids, leading to fluid retention internally, then visible externally.
However for some women, the swelling is excessive forcing them to make some aesthetic changes, like buy shoes in bigger sizes, swap their wedding bands for something a little looser (and cheaper since this is temporary), and learn to pout more than smile in pictures to reduce the effect of a swollen face.
The lucky ones just go through the entire pregnancy with changes only to the areas around their bump. Their rings fit, shoes fit, and faces don’t look any different significantly, a term now known as ‘Bump/Belly only Pregnancy’.
Why the disparity, you may ask? Studies support genes playing a huge role in this. Mother Nature has blessed some females with great genes that allow them enjoy a Bump-Only Pregnancy with minimal to no effort.
But all hope is not lost for the rest of us, including me, as I suffered awfully swollen extremities in my first pregnancy, and beat it significantly with my second. With a little extra work, the effects of edema in Pregnancy can be contained.
At this point, it is important to note that swelling in pregnancy may or may not be symptomatic of a more serious medical condition, like Pre-eclampsia or High Blood Pressure, so it is advised that any sudden or excessive swelling is properly diagnosed by a Professional.
So what simple lifestyle changes can be implemented to control swelling in pregnancy?
1. Drink up. Water remains the best drink for humans, and especially a pregnant woman, as an increase in water consumption will combat internal fluid retention, helping the kidney flush the body more, and get rid of any excess fluid.
This may result in lots of ‘bathroom-breaks’ but the benefits (not limited to combating edema), far outweigh the inconvenience. So aim for at least 2 to 3 cups more than a non-pregnant person.
2. Get moving. If one is trying to fight fluid retention, it goes without saying that constant motion on the outside would also keep things moving along on the inside, and help with fluid (re)distribution around the body.
If you are able to, exercising is advised even in pregnancy, and there are a diverse range of options, with varying degrees of intensity when it comes to prenatal exercises.
You do not have to join a gym, or block out time to work out if that is not an option.
Including more physical activity to your daily routine – walk more, take the stairs, spend less time sitting and lying down, clock 10,000 steps a day, pace while you talk on the phone/watch your favourite drama, play with your other kids, have sex, etc. – can effectively get your heart rate up, blood pumping, and help avoid fluid retention.
3. Clean Up. And by that, I mean your diet. Limit salt intake, and a lot of processed and packaged foods contain masked but excessive amounts of salt for shelf life longevity. As much as possible, eat foods cooked in your kitchen, and in their natural states, like fruits and vegetables.
There are some foods that encourage fluid retention like cow skin (ponmo), cow leg (bokoto), and even high levels of caffeine, so consumption must be controlled.
Gaining weight rapidly can also exacerbate the effects of fluid retention, so eating balanced meals, and placing a limit on junk and heavily processed foods, would impact significantly on your weight, and swelling.
While some pregnant women may feel like it is too late to apply these, the good news is that with delivery, the swollen extremities will eventually reduce, even faster with a clean diet and an active lifestyle.
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