It’s finally reached 80 degrees on Boston’s North Shore. Time for the beach, and cookouts, and unfortunately, for pregnant women, water retention. Swelling during pregnancy is common and though a nuance, not an issue most of the time. Here are some tips and tricks to combat swelling during pregnancy. Please note, if you have sudden swelling in your hands or feet, or there is pain associated with your swelling- make sure to check in with your medical provider and get evaluated.
1) DRINK LOTS WATER
It seems counter intuitive to put more water in you when you already have swelling. However, drinking water can help stimulate your body to release more fluid. If you are dehydrated, your body essentially hoards it. By giving it what it needs, it will start to let go. You can spruce it up a bit by adding some lemon or even strawberries. Think of it like spa water.
2) ELEVATE YOUR LEGS
If you are able to lie on your back (some women can’t, especially during the last trimester) you can elevate your legs. This should be done so your ankle is at least 18″ above your heart- so bust out some pillows. If you can’t lie down, even having your legs propped a bit can help decrease the rate of swelling.
3) DO TOE TAPS/KNEE EXTENSIONS
If you have to sit with your feet on the floor (you know, like most of us)- make sure you move. It may look a little fidgety, but movement helps pump the blood that is in the veins up toward the heart instead of letting it pool into your now cankles.
4) WEAR COMPRESSION
This is SO necessary, but can be the biggest PITA, especially when pregnant and especially when hot. There are hundreds of different compression options out there. If you are unsure about which one to buy, make sure to get yourself evaluated. Some people can get away with just knee-high stockings, some need thigh-high, and some need the full-meal-deal tights. (Again, not so great in the summer heat).
5) GET IN THE WATER
There are so many reasons to do this- especially in the summer. But in regards to swelling, the hydrostatic pressure water offers provides natural compression. In one study, over 70% of the pregnant women reported decreased swelling after aquatic therapy. It’s best to be in chest deep water so the fluid can dump into your heart. An added bonus is that the weight of the baby is decreased so it feels great on your back and pelvis (Score!).
6) GET A LYMPH DRAINAGE MASSAGE
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a very gentle soft tissue technique that improves lymphatic flow and has been shown to reduce swelling in pregnant women. Lymph fluid contains waste products (think metabolic waste, allergens, and pathogens that are too big to osmose back into veins). A normal happy healthy lymphatic system is sluggish on a good day (processing only 4L of filtrate per day). If there is more fluid than the veins can handle, it gets dumped over into the lymphatic system, which, can back up faster than a major highway on a holiday weekend, lending to persistent swelling. Manual lymphatic drainage should be performed initially by a practitioner who is trained in the method. You can then be easily taught how to perform this technique at home.
7) TRY KINESIOLOGY TAPING
Athletes have used it for years to enhance performance, but kinesiology tape’s best kept secret is its positive effect on swelling. Due to the unique properties of the tape and how it is placed and adhered to the skin, superficial lymphatic pathways are opened allowing for improved flow leading to decreased swelling. This is a great way to keep the benefits of a MLD massage for longer. Plus, you look like a super hero.
Swelling at any time, but especially during pregnancy, can be annoying and exhausting, but it can be managed. Try these tips or reach out to a provider who can help.