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Swollen Ankles and Legs during Pregnancy

What causes swollen ankles and feet during pregnancy? Learn about Preeclampsia and the treatment for swollen feet and ankles, and how you can reduce feet swelling in pregnancy.

Causes of Swollen Ankles and Legs

Water Retention happens when there is an increase in the amount of fluid present in the tissues. This causes swelling (Oedema) and leads to swollen feet and ankles. However, it is not confined to ankle swelling and feet swelling, the face and hands especially may become swollen too. Be careful as your rings may become tight due to your swollen fingers.

Standing all day, especially in hot weather, can cause fluid to pool in the ankles causing fluid retention. High Blood Pressure, which is often associated with pregnancy, can force fluid from the blood stream into the tissues, causing Oedema or swollen legs and feet.

Initially, seeing your swollen hands and feet, you might worry and wonder,"Why are my ankles swollen?" Most of the time, it poses no risk to your baby. It is a medical routine for your obstetrician to take your blood pressure and check if everything is normal during every antenatal visit.

Pregnancy hormones can cause retention of sodium by the kidneys, which in turn causes the body to retain fluid.

My gynaecologist assured me that sometimes due to the imbalance of the sodium, potassium and calcium levels in our bodies because of the baby, it can also lead to pregnancy cramps in the legs and feet. Calcium is apparently leeched out of our bones to be supplied to the baby causing a chemical imbalance. To alleviate the cramping during pregnancy, I took plenty of bananas, which any athlete will tell you is a fantastic cure for leg cramps in pregnancy.

Treatment for Swollen Feet, Swollen Legs and Ankles

  • Avoid standing for prolonged periods.
  • Put your feet up.
  • Avoid salty foods.
  • Take time to relax. This will help prevent water retention and varicose veins.
  • Sleep with your feet elevated with pillows.

Your doctor will check your hands, face and ankles for any swelling at each antenatal visit. Diuretics may be prescribed occasionally.

Swelling of the feet and ankles may cause some discomfort but since mostly it is harmless, just buy new shoes for swollen feet, maybe half or one size bigger. I know you wish you were going shopping for a more glamorous reason than exploding feet, but that's life... :D

What is Preeclampsia in pregnancy?

Oedema or swelling ankles and wrists caused by preeclampsia is potentially dangerous. Preeclampsia is a potentially serious condition that can affect as many as one in 10 women, especially first-time mothers and women carrying more than one baby.

It is unique to pregnancy, arising in the placenta, so the baby may grow more slowly than normal. It does not tend to run in families. The cause of preeclampsia is not fully understood.

Preeclampsia Symptoms

Preeclampsia itself is in fact symptomless, but your doctor may be alerted to signs of preeclampsia if you are found to have significantly raised blood pressure and protein in your urine, both of which will be detected at your regular antenatal check.

It is thus very important to have your blood pressure checked regularly at each antenatal visit. Preeclampsia itself rarely occurs before the 20th week, but your blood pressure may start to rise progressively before this. The pregnancy can't be restored to normal, but delivery of the baby and placenta ends the disease.

Treatment of Preeclampsia

You will be admitted to hospital, so that delivery can be arranged before serious complications arise.

Blood pressure, kidney and liver function, and blood clotting, are all monitored closely as all may be affected by the condition. Very rarely, preeclampsia can develop into eclampsia, one of the most dangerous complications of pregnancy, which causes coma and convulsions.

However, eclampsia is nearly always preceded by preeclaamsia, which acts as an early warning signal, and can be prevented by delivery of the baby.


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