Swollen ankles that appeared when pregnancy began could possibly worsen in the last trimester. Your hands and legs, especially your ankles, might be so swollen that you’ve started worrying. This swelling, called edema, is relatively easily to spot. If you feel that yours is a serious case, you might want to consider going to the doctors. The swelling most likely isn’t painful, but it can be a chore when you can’t move around as freely as you’d like to. Swollen ankles don’t disappear until pregnancy ends, so knowing some methods you can use to reduce the swelling might come in handy. If you aren’t sure what edema is, what the causes or its symptoms are, or what treatments you can use, let’s find out together.
Swollen ankles during pregnancy: Causes
Swollen ankles usually become more severe in the third trimester, and is generally caused by two factors – one, the increase in blood volume and two, the increase in the amount of estrogen secreted.
Throughout the course of pregnancy, the baby obtains the nutrients necessary for growth through the blood that goes back and forth to the mother’s body through the placenta. To be able to support the fetus’ growth, the mother’s body produces more blood. The production of blood results in the production of water, and the excess water is trapped in the subcutaneous fats. In Week 30, the volume of blood in your body reaches its peak at about 1.5 times the original volume. Although it can’t be helped if you are prone to swelling or having swollen ankles, there is a risk that edema can develop into gestational hypertension, so be careful not to let your edema worsen.
When your body works to detoxify itself from the excess build-up of estrogen, this also contributes to swelling in the legs – hence the swollen ankles. Other minor causes include the intake of salty food, a poor blood circulation due to cold, insufficient exercise, and tight clothing.
Symptoms of swollen ankles during pregnancy
Even when you weren’t pregnant, you might have woken up with a swollen face before. During pregnancy, the face usually doesn’t swell up – it’s your legs, especially your ankles, that do. One common symptom of swollen ankles and feet is that shoes become a little too tight for comfort. If you feel that your shoes are too tight, refrain from wearing them for a while as they might interfere with blood circulation. A sign telling you that you have edema is the increase in the number of impressions on your skin when you wear fitting clothes or accessories.
Strategies to fight swollen ankles and edema
Strategy 1: Don’t stay in the same position for too long
If you’re an office worker, you might be in the same position the whole day long – sitting and hammering away at the keyboard. Sitting for too long, or being in the same position for too long might cause water in your body to pool together. Remember to stand up and stretch when you take breaks, and consciously move your body, especially feet, when you can. You might want to put a foot massager under your table or use shiatsu foot massage slippers. Wearing toe socks also helps improve circulation in each toe, and this helps combat swollen ankles.
Strategy 2: Elevating your feet
When sleeping or resting, prop your legs up with cushions to about a height of 20 cm. You can also raise your hands and feet up for about 10 seconds before you go to sleep – even this will help reduce swelling.
Strategy 3: A hot footbath
If you’ve had a long day and you’re tired of moving, a hot footbath to soak your feet in is a simple method you can use to refresh yourself and also get your blood moving. Soak your feet in warm water until your feet is no longer cold, use a towel to wipe your toes properly and put on socks after that. A footbath isn’t difficult to prepare and doesn’t take up much time either – you can watch your favorite TV series or read a book when you soak your feet. Try it out – it really does help reduce the swelling!
Strategy 4: Walking
In order to get the large volume of blood in you moving, you have to keep your hands and feet warm. Exercises you can also think of trying out to improve blood circulation includes walking or walking in the pool. There isn’t a need to walk fast, so take your time. Stretch your tendons consciously, and use your calf muscles to push yourself forward. Insufficient exercise will ultimately contribute to edema and swollen ankles, so even if it’s for a short period of time, make a conscious effort to take a stroll outdoors everyday.
Strategy 5: Massage
Blood circulation improves when the legs are massaged, and this reduces swelling. However, with your belly getting in the way, it might be difficult massaging your own feet! You might want to consider roping your partner in and getting their help. Ask your partner to press their fingers down hard on the soles of your feet. Don’t be shy to ask for help – you can always return the favor next time.
Strategy 6: Eating food that improves blood circulation
You’ve probably been advised by many to stay away from salty food during pregnancy because reducing salt intake helps to reduce the risk of gestational hypertension. Reducing salt intake also helps in the fight against edema. Although it might require more effort when you’re trying to prepare delicious meals without the magic of salt, but remember that every additional pinch of salt will contribute to your edema. Eating high calcium food helps you to flush the additional sodium out of your body. You might want to consider adding apples, cucumbers, parsley, or bananas to your diet.
Fight swollen ankles from the start!
You might be one of the lucky ones who have no edema, or you might be one of those who swell easily and so, swell more during pregnancy. If you fall into the later category, don’t just let the swelling be – you now know the methods you can use or the types of food you should eat in order to reduce swelling. Although the swollen ankles will disappear after the labor and delivery, putting in effort to reduce the swelling right now means you’ll be able to enjoy your pregnancy life much better. What better time is there than to start now? Give these strategies a go and you might find both your body and heart getting lighter.