Swollen Feet During Pregnancy: Causes, Prevention, and Relief

July 25th, 2023 | 12:33 pm


Pregnancy is a period of numerous changes. During pregnancy, many women experience swollen feet. Swollen ankles and foot swelling is one common alteration that many individuals encounter. In the later stages of pregnancy, when the uterus and fetus become heavier and exert more strain on the legs and feet, swelling in the feet becomes more common. In this article, we will explore the remedies that women can try at home to reduce swelling. We will also discuss warning signs that may indicate more serious problems and explain when it’s necessary to contact a doctor.

Understanding Swollen Feet During Pregnancy

Eight out of ten pregnancies are affected by foot swelling, often known as edema. When fluid accumulates in body parts such as the hands, face, ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy, swelling occurs. This may become more apparent in the third trimester. In most cases, doctors refer to this as physiologic edema in women, and there is no need to be concerned because it is extremely normal.

The developing uterus can block blood flow, leading to an increase in fluid retention in the leg veins. The additional liquid seeps into the tissue in the area, causing the tissue to swell. Additionally, a pregnant woman’s body produces more specific hormones, which can also cause fluid retention and a bloated appearance. Rapid swelling can sometimes signal a potentially serious condition such as a blood clot or preeclampsia. It is crucial to promptly inform your doctor if you experience sudden swelling.

Causes of swollen feet

It is common for certain areas of the body to swell during pregnancy. This frequently occurs as a result of the body producing excess fluid to assist in the fetus’ development. Additionally, circulation slows down, which may contribute to fluid accumulation. Due to increased strain on the veins in the lower body caused by the expansion of the uterus as the fetus grows, ankles or feet may become swollen.

Hormones can also contribute to foot swelling. The hormone relaxin loosens the ligaments in your feet, which is also responsible for relaxing the pelvic joints to facilitate childbirth. This, combined with pregnancy aches and pains, can result in the spreading of the bones in the foot. Your feet may also increase in size due to weight gain associated with pregnancy.

One of the most concerning causes of swelling during pregnancy is preeclampsia. Women who previously had normal blood pressure readings may experience a rapid rise in blood pressure as a symptom of this medical condition. The presence of protein in the urine is another indicator. It is important to carefully monitor these symptoms, as preeclampsia patients often experience edema in the hands and feet.

When to be concerned

The moderate swelling of the feet and ankles that occurs during pregnancy is normal. However, rapid and painful swelling, especially if it affects only one leg, might be a sign of a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis). If you experience a rapid increase in swelling, you may also have elevated blood pressure. Both of these conditions require immediate diagnosis and the best pregnancy care.

Prevention Strategies

Maintain a healthy weight

You might be wondering whether you should lose weight even if your doctor does not recommend it while you are pregnant. Being overweight results in decreased blood flow and increased pressure on the feet. Additionally, it can cause fluid to accumulate in the foot. Also, find out how much salt and carbs you should consume. Consuming too much of either can result in swelling.

Regular exercise and physical activity

To stay physically active, go for regular walks, bike rides, or swims. Walking for 5 to 10 minutes twice a day helps increase circulation and reduce edema. Add the following exercises to your routine to help with pregnancy-related swelling:

  • Perform 30 repetitions of stretching and bending each foot upward and downward.
  • Rotate your foot in a circle, first in one direction and then in the opposite direction. Eight times is enough. 

These exercises can be done while standing or sitting, and they will improve circulation and prevent cramping.

Proper footwear and foot care

In addition to minimizing hip and back problems that may arise as your center of gravity shifts and your weight increases, wearing comfortable and well-fitting shoes, including orthotic shoes if necessary, is essential for reducing foot swelling. Wearing unsupportive and uncomfortable shoes can worsen backaches, leg pain, and foot pain. Even if your feet shrink back to their pre-pregnancy size, wearing shoes that support your increased body weight and fit your feet will make you feel more comfortable.

Relief Measures for Swollen Feet

Elevation and rest

Whenever possible, try to sit down and raise your feet. Just like standing all the time is bad for your pregnant body, sitting all the time is also not recommended. Elevating your feet for a short period of time, especially at the end of the day, can help drain the fluid that has built up in your legs during the day.

Cold compresses

Cold compresses, which are readily available at your neighborhood pharmacy, help maintain blood flow, reduce inflammation and discomfort, provide pain relief, and prevent fluid retention in your legs, ankles, and feet.

Gentle foot exercises and massage

Your feet tend to store fluids, and massage can help circulate them, reducing edema. You can make this even more calming by including some peppermint or lavender essential oil. Specialized prenatal massages are available at several massage parlors. They are excellent for reducing some of the anxieties that might come with pregnancy and can also help with edema.

Compression stockings

Wearing supportive stockings or tights during the day may be advised by your doctor. Compression stockings that reach the waist prevent fluid accumulation and apply pressure on the legs to lessen pregnancy-related pedal edema.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Hydration and a balanced diet

Your body will retain less water if you stay hydrated. You should consume at least eight to twelve glasses of water each day. To achieve a healthy weight gain throughout pregnancy, try to maintain a balanced diet. Include a small quantity (between 50g and 75g) of protein with each meal, such as beans and pulses, eggs, chicken, or fish.

Avoiding prolonged standing or sitting

If possible, elevate your legs when you sit or lie down to rest. Occasionally rotate each foot at the ankle to gently flex and stretch your calf muscles.

Temperature regulation

To prevent a flare-up of pregnancy edema, stay indoors during hot, sticky, and humid conditions. In hot weather, the veins in the feet expand to cool the body, which can cause foot swelling. Drinking plenty of water and wearing well-fitting, comfortable shoes with good breathability can help prevent swelling in the feet during warm weather.

When to Seek Medical Advice

The most common benign and physiologically usual pregnancy side effect is ankle and foot swelling. However, it could also indicate preeclampsia or gestational hypertension. When a pregnant individual has high blood pressure, it is called gestational hypertension. When a person has both gestational hypertension and protein in the urine, preeclampsia develops. Leg pain and increased swelling may potentially be signs of a blood clot. If not addressed, all three pose a risk to the expectant mother and fetus. Women should speak with their healthcare professional to discuss treatment options if they are concerned about swollen feet during pregnancy or unable to alleviate painful symptoms.


It is often not a cause for concern when the feet swell in the later stages of pregnancy as this is a common occurrence. During pregnancy, the body retains extra water. Additionally, the pressure from the fetus can lower leg circulation, resulting in foot swelling. Elevating the feet when seated and wearing loose, comfortable shoes are two natural remedies for swollen feet during pregnancy. Moreover, it may be beneficial to drink plenty of water, move frequently, and avoid standing for prolonged periods of time.

Pregnant women should seek immediate medical attention if they notice a rapid increase in edema in their hands, feet, face, or around their eyes. Preeclampsia, a disorder that requires medical treatment, can exhibit symptoms of sudden swelling. Furthermore, pregnant women should immediately contact their doctor if they experience excessive pain, redness, warmth, or swelling in one leg as these symptoms may indicate Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). At Giggles Hospitals, our expert doctors are here to provide the best comprehensive care for pregnancy-related complications. Book your appointment today.