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Brighter Days: 5 Top Tips to Minimize Pregnancy Swelling

Jennifer Bright on

Remember your ankles? Even if you could bend down to look at your ankles, they might be so swollen you wouldn't want to. Swelling is very common in pregnancy, especially toward the end. To meet the needs of your developing baby, your body produces approximately 50% more blood and body fluids. All of this extra blood and fluid causes swelling. Normal swelling, which is also called edema, is seen in the hands, face, legs, ankles and feet.

Swelling normally kicks in around the fifth month of pregnancy, and it often increases from there. Swelling can be worsened by heat, standing, getting too little potassium and drinking too much caffeine.

Here's what our Mommy M.D.s -- doctors who are also mothers -- do to cope with swelling in their own pregnancies.

"Toward the end of my pregnancy, I had mild swelling, which is quite common," says Diane Connelly, M.D., a mom of one daughter and an OB-GYN in HMO practice in Riverside, California. "I simply wore support hose, which are helpful, but take forever to put on!"

"I had horrible swelling toward the end of my pregnancies," says Rallie McAllister, M.D., MPH, mom of three, co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year," nationally recognized health expert and family physician in Lexington, Kentucky. "My cankles had cankles. I was so swollen that I couldn't fit into any dress shoes, so I simply wore tennis shoes or clogs with everything. Also, socks with elastic at the top left deep, painful impressions in my calves. Instead, I wore soft fuzzy socks that didn't have any elastic on top. And just forget the panty hose. That's crazy!

"These days, I see pregnant women wearing tighter clothing than they used to," Dr. McAllister continues. "I think it's great that women are proud of their baby bumps and not hiding their pregnancies under tents! But fashion isn't more important than comfort. During my pregnancies, I lived in sweats and stretch pants when I was at home. And at work I wore scrubs, which are great because they have expanding drawstring waistbands."

"During my pregnancy, I had a tremendous amount of swelling," says Gina Dado, M.D., a mom of two daughters and an OB-GYN in Scottsdale, Arizona. "In just two weeks, I gained 10 pounds. My hands were swollen, and my feet looked like puffer fish. The nurses took a picture of my feet when I was in labor because they were so swollen. Even my nose was swollen. My feet were so swollen I couldn't wear any of my shoes. I used to joke that this is what they meant by 'pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen.' I lived in flip-flops, even with nice dresses. Thank goodness I live in sunny Arizona."


"During my pregnancy, I had bad swelling of my feet and fingers," says Aline T. Tanios, M.D., a mom of four children and a pediatric hospitalist at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St Louis, Missouri. "Whenever I had the chance, I'd put my feet up, especially at night when I was watching TV. I think it's helpful to keep a foot stool nearby.

Also, it sounds counterintuitive, but it helps to stay hydrated. Don't stop drinking if you're swelling. I drank a lot of water during my pregnancy, and an occasional caffeinated soda."

When to Call Your Doctor or Midwife

If you notice a sudden, marked increase in swelling, especially if it's combined with other symptoms such as dizziness or vision changes, call your health care provider immediately. These can be signs of a dangerous condition called preeclampsia.


Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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