The joy of pregnancy!  It is amazing to see how your body changes from the first day you have an inkling that you may be pregnant and all through the 9-10 months that follow, including the post partum  months.  Part of those changes in your body is the change in weight, accompanied by the change in the amount of swelling in your feet and ankles. 

swollen feetIs Post Partum Swelling Normal?

Once you go through pregnancy and delivery, there is a new definition of normal for your body, and everyone is different.  The short answer is - yes -  swelling in the post partum period in your feet and ankles is normal.  After you have accumulated fluid over 9 months, it is going to take a few months for your body to readjust.  Try to be patient - it will just take time. But rest assured, most women who go through pregnancy have the exact same issues and concerns related to swelling in their feet and ankles and in time, your body will return to normal. 

pregnant woman with feet upWhat Are The Signs of Post Partum Swelling In Your Feet and Ankles? 

The most common signs are the way your feet and ankles look. You may notice that your shoes may feel a little tighter than they usually do. You may also look down at your bare feet and notice that the skin lines may be absent where you usually see them, and that each toe itself may appear puffier than usual.  If you are able to touch your ankles, you may also notice that they may appear puffier or larger in circumference (the length around the ankle) and you may not have your ankle bones as prominent as you are used to.  

Why Does Post Partum Swelling Occur? 

Swelling in the feet and ankles occur due to accumulation of fluid in the soft tissues just under your skin over several months.   In addition, any IV fluids that may have been running through your veins during delivery (especially in the cases of patients who have had a C-secion) may also contribute to the fluid collection. 

pregnant woman holding her footHow Long Does Post Partum Swelling Last?

In general, the swelling due to the fluid collection does not last more than a few months.  If it does last longer, then you should really speak to your OB doctor with your concerns.  But rest assured, this is a self limiting issue that shouls resolve in a few months.

How Can I Treat Swelling in my Feet and Ankles After Pregnancy?

There are several ways to treat this.  You may want to try a few of these suggestions, as one may not work as well as the other, and you can try a few of these concurrently:

  • Move as much as you can!  Obviously after giving birth, mobility might be difficult, especially after a C-section.  However the more you move around, safely, the better this is to get rid of post partum swelling in your feet and ankles.  Standing up for long periods of time can cause gravity to allow the fluid to pool in your feet and ankles, however lying down for long periods of time can do the same.  When you get up and walk around, the muscles in your legs help pump the blood back up to your heart and will help with increasing circulation and the circulation of all fluids at the same time. 
  • pregnant woman with her feet upDrink more water.  This may sound counter intuitive as you want your body to get rid of excess fluid.  However this is exactly how it will happen!  When you cosume more water, this signals your body to keep electrolytes balanced and in turn remove excess fluid from the tissues.  So even though you may not feel thirsty, it is important to hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate some more. Dehydration can cause the body to hold on to extra fluid, and if your body is hydrated, then this will be reversed. 
  • Elevate your legs when you are seated.  When sitting, it is important to avoid dangling your legs.  When they are elevated, you are aiding your veins to return venous blood to your heart and in the same process, decreasing the pooling of fluid in your feet and ankles.  As the blood flows back up to your heart, your kidneys can do their job and eliminate excess fluid. 

compression stockings

  • Consider using compression stockings.  You should confer with your doctor first, but sometimes compression stockings can be very helpful. The reason is that compression stockings will provide an easier means to increase circulation, thus allowing your body to easily metabolize and remove extra fluid.  
  • Take advantage of a fan or air conditioning - stay cool!  Dress in light clothing as well to decrease perspiration and seating.  Use cold compresses to decrease body temperature and cool off; heat can increase swelling, so you want to do everything you can to make yourself as cool as possible.
  •  Watch your diet!  Be sure to stay away from salty foods.  High sodium intake can cause water retention, which will increase the likelihood of swelling.  Although junk food is tempting, try to limit salt intake post partum. In addition, foods with a high sugar content can also cause inflammation and swelling of the tissues.  
  • Try to do some ankle exercises a few times a day when sitting down.  There are a few exercises that you can perform while sitting down that will increase blood flow and circulation to the ankles and feet, and thus will decrease edema and swelling.  For example, try ankle rolls, one ankle at a time.  Extend your leg and roll your ankles outward clockwise for 20 times, then roll your ankles inward 20 times.  You can also do leg extension and curls while sitting up in a chair.  Any movement to the lower extremity will get the muscle pumping and thus causing the blood to flow up and down your legs, stimulating circulation and the dissipation of the collection of fluid.  Plus, it feels good to move around! Stretching exercises of all types are helpful as well. 
  •  

child kissing belly of pregnant womanWhen Do I Need to Call My Doctor Regarding Swelling?

If you have swelling that is painful, swelling that is increased, or additional redness or pain to your legs, then you should call your doctor.  In addition, if you have chest pain or shortness of breath, then you should immediately notify your doctor. Other indications to seek medical attention are if you get sudden swelling after decreased swelling, or if you press your ankle and the indentation in the skin remains for several minutes when before the indentation used to dissipate in a few seconds. 

Remember, post partum swelling in your feet and ankles is part of the whole process, and it took 9 -10 months to accumulate that fluid, and it may take several months for it to decrease. The most important thing is to keep a close watch on your health during this time and it will be gone sooner than later. 

 

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