This morning one of my Mamas wrote a FB airing her 8 months of pregnancy grievances. Hot NYC weather, inability to roll over in bed or touch her toes which have swollen into little vienna sausages. Inspired by her, I've put together the following informational sheet about swollen feet and natural remedies. I've also been inspired to create either a foot soak or a foot massage oil for my Etsy shop. Stay tuned!
What causes swelling in pregnancy?
Swelling (oedema) is triggered by increased pressure in the veins of your legs, and by pressure from your growing baby on the big veins in your groin. Water retention adds to the problem.
Swelling is common. About half of all pregnant women experience swelling around their ankles, particularly in the last few months of pregnancy. You may find your fingers, face and lower back become swollen too.
The swelling in your legs usually gets worse as the day progresses, especially if you are on your feet a lot. Gravity makes the fluid build at the lowest point. Hot weather and being tired can also make swelling worse. You'll probably have oedema in your feet and ankles, and in both legs.
Call your doctor or midwife if the swelling:
• Moves up your calf and leaves an indentation when pressed, or is sudden or severe in your face, hands or feet. If this happens in your third trimester, it could mean that you have pre-eclampsia.
• Occurs only in one leg, particularly if your calf is red, tender and lumpy. These can be symptoms of a blood clot in your vein (thrombosis).
If your wrists and hand are swollen, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, which is when the swelling compresses the channel of nerves running up your arm.
Your swelling is likely to become temporarily worse in the first three or four days after your baby's birth.
As your body recovers after birth, all the extra tissue, blood vessels and fluid needed during pregnancy now need to be dissolved and expelled. This makes you pee a lot more, though your kidneys won't yet be able to cope with the extra fluid. Some of the fluid will build up in the tissues around your body until it can be passed out of your body.
How can I prevent swelling?
It may not be possible to prevent some swelling from developing. But you can prevent it from becoming severe. Severe swelling can make your legs painful and your skin tender.
Try to eat a balanced diet so that you put on a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy. Your diet should include a small amount of lean protein such as meat, poultry, eggs, beans and pulses, with each meal.
Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Aim to reduce how much salt, sugar and fat you have and drink plenty of water to help your kidneys to filter the excess fluid.
Some foods may help to maintain good kidney function and make you pee more (natural diuretics). These include celery, watercress, parsley (in small amounts), apples and citrus fruits. Onions and garlic may help to improve your circulation.
Try to avoid eating pre-packaged, highly processed foods that contain both salt and other additives, as these can make fluid retention worse. Opt for foods which are naturally rich in vitamins C and E.
Good sources of vitamin C include:
• Citrus fruits
• Dark leafy greens (Kale, Collards, Spinach)
• Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts
• Kiwi fruit
• Bell Peppers
Foods rich in vitamin E include:
• Sunflower seeds
• Cashews and almonds
• Leafy Greens-kale, spinach, mustard greens
• Swiss Chard
• Olive Oil
• Bell Peppers
Smoking may contribute to your swelling, which is another good reason to quit during pregnancy.
What tips can I try to ease swelling?
Rest as much as possible, putting your feet up above your hips by resting them on a stool. Try not to cross your legs, as this restricts your blood flow. Sit down when you can, and if your work involves standing for long periods of time, move about from one foot to the other to increase blood flow.
Ask your partner to massage your feet and legs gently, using both hands and working upwards from feet to knees, using a base oil such as grapeseed. However, if your legs are excessively swollen and the skin is very tight, this may be too painful for you.
Dandelion tea, an herbal remedy, may help to prevent fluid retention, but don't take this if you have a gall bladder condition. Always drink herbal teas in moderation during pregnancy.
Which complementary therapies could help?
Acupuncture may help. The theory is that it rebalances your internal energies and aids your circulation and kidney function. Osteopathy and chiropractic treat misalignments in your skeleton, which may be placing stress and tension on specific areas of your body, restricting your blood flow.
Foot massage may help to relieve your swollen ankles, and reflexology may ease swelling and the discomfort it causes. Choose a registered reflexologist who is qualified and insured to treat pregnant women.
Soothing tired, sore, achy feet can easily be relieved by using carefully selected aromatherapy oils in a footbath or as massage oil.
Best of all, these oils will provide you with an instant pick-me-up leaving you feeling invigorated and refreshed. Pure essential oils such as Litsea cubeba and Grapefruit (Citrus paradise) have excellent anti-inflammatory and calming properties and also treat swelling water retention, fatigue and insomnia. In addition, Ginger essential oil acts as a pain, eases aches and cramps also improves circulation. Cypress oil is particularly good for circulation and varicose veins. Lavender and chamomile oil may ease your discomfort and make you feel more relaxed.
Tips to Help Soothe Swollen Feet
There are a number of things that you can do to ease swollen feet during pregnancy and prevent further foot problems and these include:
• Take short breaks during the day and elevate your feet to relieve the pressure
• Stretch and flex your feet when you are sitting down
• Wear shoes that fit properly and avoid wearing high-heeled or tight shoes while you are pregnancy as they will constrict circulation
• Exercise regularly to ensure optimum health – practice walking every day
• Shop for shoes towards the end of the day as feet tend to swell as the day progresses
• Measure your feet often throughout your pregnancy as they will change in size
• If you suffer from over-pronation, use custom-made inserts in your shoes
• Wear compression hosiery to keep the pressure from fluids down
• Wear seamless socks that do not constrict circulation
• Eat healthy, well balanced meals and avoid foods high in salt that can cause water retention
• Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated, reduce swelling and improve circulation
• Have a relaxing foot massage to soothe swollen feet and stimulate circulation
• Soaking your feet in tonic water can help relieve swelling
Water Retention Massage Oil- safe throughout pregnancy to help reduce swelling
2½ tablespoons almond or coconut oil
½ tablespoon jojoba oil
1 Evening Primrose oil capsule (approx. 10 drops)
2 drops tangerine oil
1 drop lemon oil
4 drops cypress oil
4 drops lavender oil
3 drops geranium oil
This can be used throughout the pregnancy. Just relax on the sofa, with your legs raised on pillows. Apply this aromatic massage oil to your feet, ankles and legs, massaging toward your heart to help circulation. (The help of your partner would certainly be appreciated.)
Recipe from Young Living Oil website
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.