mother with baby

Swelling. It’s one of those pregnancy side effects that, while totally normal, has the potential to make everyday life uncomfortable for mamas-to-be (and cause your shoes and rings to feel too small!). Here’s why swelling happens during pregnancy, how to ease your swelling and discomfort, and when to call your provider if your swelling is out of the ordinary.

Why Does Swelling Occur During Pregnancy?

Believe it or not, your body produces around 50% more blood and body fluids to support your growing baby during pregnancy. This extra fluid also helps your body to soften and expand as baby develops, and prepares your joints and tissue to expand for baby’s delivery.

While most expecting mamas start to notice some swelling (also known as edema) in their hands, feet and ankles from around 20 weeks through the third trimester, it can occur at any time during your pregnancy. Aside from the pregnancy itself, other factors can make bouts of swelling worse, such as:

  • Heat or warmer climates
  • Standing for a long time, or after doing a lot of activity
  • Low potassium levels
  • High caffeine consumption
  • A high-sodium diet

What Can I Do About Swelling During Pregnancy?

When you’re feeling swollen during your pregnancy, there are a few things you can do to try and manage (or reduce) your symptoms, including:

  • Rest with your feet propped up
  • Stay out of the heat
  • Wear comfortable shoes and avoid tight clothes
  • Buy some supportive leggings or compression socks
  • Use cold compresses where you’re swollen
  • Be sure your diet includes potassium (bananas!) and avoid high levels of caffeine and sodium
  • Drink plenty of water

Should I Be Concerned About Swelling During Pregnancy?

While slight levels of swelling are a normal part of pregnancy, sudden and/or extreme swelling (particularly in your hands and face) is not and can point to a serious underlying condition. If any of the following happen, contact your provider immediately:

  • Swelling in your face (including puffiness around your eyes)
  • Extreme or sudden swelling in your extremities
  • Swelling along with a headache that won’t subside, vision changes, nausea, body pain, shortness of breath or sudden weight gain
  • Swelling more in one leg than another, along with pain or tenderness
  • Swelling along with chest pain or shortness of breath

If you ever have questions about whether your swelling is within what’s considered “normal” for a pregnant person, schedule some time with your provider for assessment. When it comes to taking care of yourself (and your growing baby) during your pregnancy it’s always best to play it safe.