8 ways to reduce swelling and water retention during pregnancy

8 ways to reduce swelling and water retention during pregnancy

Article by Cherlynn Ng

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? Probably more like a balloon in the case of pregnant women. Also known as edema, water retention is a common ailment that plagues mums-to-be. This is because your body is producing and holding about 50 percent more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of a developing baby. Swelling tends to occur more in the evenings, and from the fifth month of pregnancy all the way into the third trimester. It is certainly no walk in the park despite not being life-threatening, so here are some ways you can ease your swelling!

1. Reduce salt intake

Sodium causes the body to retain water, so cut out salty and processed foods (which tend to be high in trans-fat too) out of your diet. For instance, opt for healthy nuts instead of potato chips if you are looking for a snack.

2. Avoid refined carbs

Similarly, a diet high in simple sugars can also lead to water retention. This is because consuming refined carbs causes your blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, which increases the reabsorption of sodium into your kidneys. Consider switching out white rice and bread for wholemeal grains instead.

3. Eliminate caffeine

It’s not just coffee, but drinks like tea and Coca-Cola too. Drink more plain water to flush your system and reduce water retention. Fruits will not only quench your thirst, but are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants too.

4. Eat more potassium-rich foods

Potassium reduces swelling by decreasing sodium levels and increasing urine production. Not only is it known to boost heart health, it also helps to send the electrical signals that keep our bodies functioning. Bananas, avocados and sweet potatoes are some goodies that you can incorporate into your diet.

5. Stay active but don’t stand for prolonged periods

Excessive pressure on your feet can result in the loosening of ligaments, more swelling and leg cramps so don’t spend too long standing. To promote blood circulation and ease swollen ankles, try some non-strenuous exercise such as a simple walk or swimming. The immersion in water will bring much comfort to your ailing form.

6. Do gentle leg exercises when seated

When seated, spend some time doing leg exercises such as wiggling your toes, rotating your feet and stretching at regular intervals. If at rest, always do it with your feet elevated. Remember not to cross your legs or ankles!

7. Comfy footwear only

Expecting mothers are advised to invest in comfortable footwear that provide good support and which can accommodate swelling. Your high heels can wait. Wearing compression stockings in the morning before swelling sets in is also recommended.

8. Cold compresses and leg massages

Cold compresses are an effective way of reducing swelling. You may also indulge in a leg massage (get your partner to give you one if possible). Using upward strokes will help to move fluid away from your ankles.

Although uncomfortable, edema goes away quite quickly once you give birth. However, if these tips do not soothe your pain or your symptoms worsen, be sure to see a doctor immediately. Some red flags to look out for are excessive swelling in your face, hands or feet.


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