Pregnancy Edema: How To Cope And Manage With The Swelling
The swelling came on fast and furious. Other than our subfertility struggles, edema was one of the hardest things to cope with during my pregnancy. My number one goal began to find different ways to manage the massive amount of pregnancy swelling that I was experiencing.
In hindsight, I am obviously lucky that this was my main complaint. There are so many emotional and physical ups and downs that a woman can go through while pregnant. In the beginning, I hardly had any morning sickness. I feel like the edema was payback for an easy peasy first and second trimester.
There is swelling, and then there is edema. Many of us will swell a little when pregnant. Feet, fingers, face - no body part is safe (seriously, no part!)
Edema is trapped fluid in the tissue of your body. There are many people who have limbs that are in a permanent state of edema. I am SO THANKFUL that this painful, debilitating condition went away. In my research on edema, I began to see stories of women who had edema while pregnant, but the lymph node damage was so severe, that it did not go away.
Physically, my pregnancy was easy in the beginning! I felt great! No pain, no swelling, no morning sickness. This was me on June 28th, painting my son's nursery. I was 7 months pregnant.
7 Months Pregnant - looking and feeling too good to be true
The following weekend was the forth of July. I had no shame rocking the bikini. It was this weekend that things started to swell a bit. My feet started to tingle and feel a bit numb at times, but I didn't think much of it.
4th of July - last photo taken before the swelling hit
Over the course of the next week, my legs started to take on more water. I was really uncomfortable! Or so I thought.....
As it turns out, I would have taken this minor swelling any day over what was to come!
Start of the day vs. end of the day during my first week with edema
In mid-July, I walked a tradeshow for 6 hours. My foot flesh was oozing out of my shoes. People who knew me were freaking out over my swollen ankles. It was at this point that the swelling was no longer going down in the AM. This was a perpetual state. I was starting to think that I should be implementing my Stretch Mark Prevention Plan on me feet and legs at this point!
My feet after walking a trade show. Still 5 weeks to go!
I couldn't believe the amount of fluid retention! This was painful, and it felt like I was carrying 100 pound ball and chains around on my legs. The half of me that swelled was below my waist. I did not have any finger or face swelling. The fluid chose one half of my body, and parked there for 5 weeks.
Edema skin imprints
My legs are usually about the same size as my sister's legs. In the below, I am on the left, and she is on the right.
My leg (left) vs. My sister's leg (right)
My feet! They were gone! Much of my job is done while on my feet - my sweet boss was constantly suggesting to me that I sit down and put my feet up. I don't know how I kept on trucking with these legs.
I work in a closed-toe shoe environment. Let me tell you - it was no picnic going shoe shopping during this time. I had to buy foam Sketcher slipper/shoes, in two sizes bigger than my normal size 8. And my feet continued to overflow in them.
My swelling when it was at the worst!
So, what did I do to help this swelling? I did several things that you can try as well to help alleviate any pregnancy swelling that you may have:
8 Tips for Managing Pregnancy Swelling and Edema
1) Never get out of bed. My doctor eventually bed rested me. I was still very swollen in bed, but even after being out of bed for 15 minutes, then swelling was so much worse than it would have been if I had never gotten out of bed at all.
2) Feet up whenever possible. Elevate those legs!
3) Low sodium foods. Cut as much of it out as possible, it only makes the swelling worse. You're going to want to stay away from french fries, and also stay away from this other post of mine. Iconic fries alert!
4) Get a good pair of comfy foam shoes, in a size or two bigger than you are. My go-to shoes were Sketchers, they were extra foamy and cradled my oozing foot flesh the best. Here's one pair that I tried in a size 10.
5) Compression wear. It did not work for me, but it could work for you! Ask your doc about it if you have mild swelling. I tried knee-high compression socks but became frightened when I saw my mushroom knee caps ballooning over the calf-high socks one day. The situation looked dangerous. I had to get the compression wear off immediately. Next time, maybe I will try full leg wrapping!
6) Massage. This is the time for the hubs to be massaging your feet. It is his duty during this time. No excuses!
7) Epsom salt baths. These baths helped with my pain, but not necessarily the swelling.
8) Have you baby. This is one way to get rid of your swelling. But of course, this is what we are all hoping for most during this time, isn't it?! It took nine full days for my swelling to go down after I had my son.
In the end, for my edema, the only solution was to have my baby. FYI, I did not get much sympathy from my doctors while being this swollen. I was told things like "you're not that bad", or "I've seen worse". But you know what - they do see worse. They see many things more emotionally and physically taxing than this. I now can appreciate their "suck it up" mentality.
Due to the amount of time that I spend on my feet and legs, my son came a bit early. He arrived 11 days before my due date. Thank goodness! As mentioned above, it took a full 9 days for all of the swelling to go down. First, the swelling only went away in my upper thighs. So for a couple of days, I had edema calves and feet, but not thighs.
But finally, it went away. There were other things that accompanied my postpartum physical recovery, which I will go into details later. Having the swelling gone was a step in the right direction.
It took 9 days for the edema to go away entirely after having my son
So, partners of pregnant women, you better be giving the most epic foot massages during this time of your significant other's life. They really do need it - so pamper your other half! We go through A LOT for our precious children!
Ahhhhhhhh. I have feet again! Feet that fit into shoes!
MBA, Master's of Human Nutrition, and Mom. Stephanie's subfertility journey has lead to the greatest adventure of her life - Motherhood. In addition to working full time, she chronicles her experiences of pregnancy and parenthood, and also shares nutritious recipes that are easy to prepare for busy families on the go. Feel free to send a message to Stephanie, as she loves to hear from her readers!