When you’re pregnant, your body produces about 50 percent more body fluids. In fact, retained fluids account for a quarter of the pregnancy weight you’ll gain. By the end of your pregnancy, you’ll have three pounds of extra blood running through your body. This fluid retention helps increase body softness and elasticity, making it easier to house (and eventually push out) that growing baby.
While necessary, this extra body fluid does have a downside: painful swelling, also known as edema. If you’re sick of that uncomfortable pressure in your legs and feet, try these tips for relief:
· Avoid caffeine. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily for pregnant women to minimize miscarriage risk, but you may want to cut out caffeinated beverages completely if you experience frequent swelling.
· Drink, drink, drink. It seems counterintuitive, but drinking water actually helps reduce water retention by flushing out excess sodium.
· Get off your feet. You might find that being active and on your feet all day triggers more-than-usual discomfort. That’s because standing for long periods of time makes swelling worse. If you have to do chores or run errands, take frequent sitting breaks, preferably with your feet elevated. Stretching throughout the day also helps.
· Find support. No, we’re not talking about support groups for pregnancy swelling (do those exist?). Wearing supportive stockings or leggings can give your bloated lower extremities a sense of normalcy again. Another trick that works: Lie on your left side when you sleep to improve circulation.
· Swear off salt. Salt traps fluids. Say no to salty snacks — let’s face it, most aren’t good for you anyway — and yes to potassium-rich fresh fruits and vegetables. Potassium causes more sodium to be excreted through your urine, helping counteract its effects on fluid retention. Go beyond bananas with a variety of potassium-packed foods, such as sweet potatoes, lima beans, Swiss chard, spinach and avocados.
· Stay cool. Hot, humid weather is no friend of yours, so stick to air-conditioned environments if possible. Placing cold compresses on swollen ankles and feet can help on particularly hot days — as can a nice dip in cool water. If you have to beg or barter to gain access to a pool, do it. Pools not only relieve swelling but also the effects of gravity on that already burdensome belly.