During pregnancy, everything about a woman’s body changes. No doubt you’re well aware that weight gain and back pain are two givens but are you aware that your extremities and limbs – both arms and legs, hands and feet – are bound to swell? Some women find they can no longer wear their wedding ring and have to buy a bigger size of shoes due to edema (swelling). Here’s the reasons why this might happen to you, too.
Causes of Swelling
Swelling occurs when there is fluid build-up in the affected body part. For most people, swelling in the hands and feet is often due to injury or another type of physical trauma, either directly in the body parts affected or in the joint. Arthritis, heart disease, blood disorders and infections are all culprits. Sometimes overuse, such as repetitive tasks or certain types of exercise, will cause fluid to build up in the fingers and toes. And women who are not pregnant often retain water during menstruation, another cause of edema.
But for the pregnant woman, the buildup of fluid in hands and feet is due to different causes. Your baby is growing and it needs fluids to develop. Your body needs more fluids than normal, too, because they are key in helping your joints expand and soften to accommodate your baby passing through the birth canal. Your blood chemistry changes, too, and this causes more fluids to migrate to the body’s tissues.
As your uterus expands, it naturally puts pressure on the surrounding organs. The veins of your pelvis and your vena cava (the vein carrying blood from your legs to your heart) are often affected by this additional pressure, which constricts the flow of blood, thus causing it to pool in your feet.
There are some conditions that exacerbate edema during pregnancy. If you were overweight before getting pregnant, chances are you were already experiencing poor circulation due to a slowing down of the lymphatic system that will only get worse as your pregnancy advances.
Your diet could be the culprit, too. Excessive amounts of salt or caffeine are known to cause swelling. Deficits of nutrients or not drinking enough water could have the same effect. In either instance, your body retains extra fluids and this causes swelling.
Why Your Hands and Feet Swell
Why are your hands and feet the most affected by pregnancy edema? They are called “extremities” for a reason – because these parts of your body are located at the extreme ends. Fluids pool here because it’s the end of the line, so to speak.
The problem is usually worse during the third trimester of pregnancy, as your body ramps up its preparation efforts, and in the summer, when swelling due to heat is typically a problem for anyone.
You may also find swelling occurs overnight. Depending on what position you sleep in, it could adversely affect circulation and you might find yourself waking up with swollen hands and feet.
There are several ways you can combat pregnancy edema but one of the most effective is wearing compression gloves and socks. These garments can be worn with anything all day and all night. Non-invasive treatment without side effects is best when you’re expecting a baby and compression garments fit the bill perfectly.
Don’t put up with swelling of hands and feet during pregnancy. It’s a natural condition with various causes but you don’t have to buy a larger size shoe or ditch your wedding ring if you wear compression gloves and stockings.