Feet Swelling, Joint and Leg Pain in Pregnancy

Water retention occurs to about 50% of women during their pregnancy in some degree. The water retention usually lead to feet swelling and might cause joint and leg pain. It is a common condition in pregnant women. In fact it’s a sign of normal pregnancy (pregnancy without the present of any serious condition).

Causes of water retention during pregnancy:

  • Increase of body fluid volume
    During pregnancy, the body needs extra fluid to be able to expand and give more space for baby to grow. The extra fluid also helps nourish and protect the baby, and prepare the body (joints) for a smooth delivery later. To meet the needs of this extra fluid, the body will produce and retain more body fluid. The increase of fluid volume might cause dilation in the leg veins and lead to water retention in the lower extremities.
  • Pressure on the vena cava
    The growing uterus might press the vena cava; the large vessel on the right side of the body that returns blood from the lower extremities to the heart; thus impair the blood flow to the heart. This will cause the blood backs up, accumulates and leaks into the surrounding tissues of the lower body parts causing ankles and feet swelling.
  • Hormone fluctuations also contribute to water retention during pregnancy.

Water retention or feet swelling usually develop in the mid to late pregnancy although it can happen anytime during pregnancy. A normal ankles and feet swelling usually gets worsen during the course of the day. It also get worsen during hot weather. You can improve the condition by elevating the feet whenever possible.

Swelling because of other medical condition, however, usually remains, even long after you take rest and elevate the feet. This abnormal water retention during pregnancy might be a sign of preeclampsia disease, although kidney disease, heart failure, lymphedema, blood clots, etc. might cause it too.

Ankles and feet swelling usually persists up to two weeks after childbirth.

How to reduce feet swelling and possible joint or leg pain in pregnancy?

  • Elevate the legs above the heart regularly
  • Avoid prolong sitting with feet hang on the floor (you can put feet up or use a footrest when you are sitting)
  • Lying down, especially on the left side since the vena cava is on the right side of your body
  • Watch your sodium intake
  • Wear leg support stockings
  • Fluid pills are not recommended instead you can include foods with dieuretic effect in your diet such as onion, garlic, celery, etc.
  • Increase your physical activities when applicable; brisk walking is great for pregnant women
  • Compress the swollen ankles and feet with cold water
  • Stay cool so the foot and ankle swelling don’t get worse
  • Drink lots of water, especially in very hot weather
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes
  • Wear a good large shoe with a large sole to give the feet plenty of room during pregnancy, especially if your feet swell and any discomfort occurs because of it
  • Treat any underlying medical conditions

If your feet swelling are so severe and even cause joint or leg pain to you or if it does not go away even after a long rest, don't hesitate to talk with your doctor. Pregnancy can be frightening enough so there’s no reason to add to it.