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Edema During Pregnancy: All You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Oct 15, 2021

Edema During Pregnancy: All You Need to Know

When you get pregnant, your stomach will swell to the size of a watermelon. But aside from your abdomen, your feet along with the rest of your body could also start to swell. This is called edema during pregnancy.

Edema is experienced by about three-quarters of pregnant women. This normally starts at Week 22 to Week 27 of pregnancy. Normally, this will last until a woman gives birth.

Causes of Edema During Pregnancy

Edema during pregnancy happens because of the increase in body fluids produced to nurture both you and the baby.

This also happens due to increased blood flow in your tissues as well as the pressure of your growing uterus on the pelvic veins and vena cava, which is the large vein on the right side of the body. This is the one responsible for returning blood from your lower limbs to your heart.

Mild swelling can be experienced in the face, hand, legs, ankles, and feet. The extra fluid in the body helps in increasing the blood volume. This helps in delivering nutrients to the growing baby.

Another cause of edema is when you gain weight faster than the ideal timeframe. Edema during pregnancy accounts for approximately 25% of the weight that women gain during pregnancy.

Other Factors that Cause Edema During Pregnancy

There are also other factors that can affect the swelling that you experience while you’re pregnant. Some of this can make it worse but knowing what the factors are can also help you avoid it.

Standing for Long Periods of Time

Standing for a long time while pregnant can put a strain on your back It also causes edema or swelling of the feet, which can be uncomfortable.

High Level of Sodium

There’s no need to restrict sodium intake during pregnancy, but note that when you have a high level of sodium, it can cause excess fluid retention. This means that it adds up to the retention that comes naturally with pregnancy.

Heat Exposure

Heat can make blood vessels dilate. Gravity then pulls the blood down into your feet, making your feet swell. If you are standing or sitting for a long period of time, this magnifies it even more.

How to Prevent Edema During Pregnancy

There are ways to prevent edema during pregnancy. Aside from avoiding the other factors listed above, you can also do the following:

Avoid Wearing Tight Clothing or Socks

The goal is to let fluids and blood flow freely in your body and feet so that it will not cause unnecessary swelling.

Don’t Wear Heels or Uncomfortable Shoes

Instead, wear shoes that are a bit loose, flat, and comfortable for you. Orthopedic shoes are your best bet or orthopedic inserts since they can help with the blood flow in your feet.

Elevate Your Legs

When you have been out and about, freshen up as soon as you get home, kick up your feet against a wall and elevate it for a time. This helps to promote blood circulation and relax your muscles.

Side Sleeping

If you haven’t started sleeping on your left side, now is the time to do so. Sleeping on your left side prevents the gravid uterus from compressing the vena cava which is found on your right side. Blood flow is not impeded, therefore accumulation of fluid is prevented.

Move Your Body

Pregnancy-approved exercises are good in keeping your body moving and making sure that the blood is flowing instead of just pooling which results in swelling.

Wear Support Hose

Wearing stockings or pantyhose that fits comfortably at the beginning of the day can help reduce swelling.

Drink a Lot of Water

Though it may seem strange to stock up on liquid when you are already retaining so much liquid, drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water will actually flush out sodium. Hydration will also flush out other waste products that cause swelling.

Take Salt in Moderation

Too much or too little salt can increase swelling so take salt in moderation, just enough to flavor food, but not too much that it will promote further fluid retention.

Cold Compress

You can also apply cold compress on swollen areas to help minimize the swelling.

Go Swimming

If you have access to a pool and can get the approval of your doctor, you can go for a swim, since the pressure from the water will help to flush down the swelling on your feet.

When to Call a Doctor

Though edema during pregnancy is common, there are certain instances where you might need to reach out to your doctor. If you see any of the following, immediately call your doctor:

  • If any part of your face, eyes, hand, or feet develops severe swelling that produces deep depression when pressed. 
  • When the swelling is more profound in the face.
  • In the event that you experience blurred vision.
  • If you have a severe headache that won’t go away.
  • If you have difficulty breathing.
  • If you have blood pressure more than or equal to 140/90
  • If you have problem voiding

Should any of these occur, it’s best to call your doctor right away.

Key Takeaways

Though edema during pregnancy can be uncomfortable, know that this will only last until you give birth.

In time, your face, neck, hands, and feet will go back to normal. This, along with other changes, is just part of the process to accommodate your growing baby and to prepare your body for birth.

Learn more about Being Pregnant here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Oct 15, 2021

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