Ankle and foot swelling in pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, is really common. About half of women experience it. It happens because the hormonal changes of pregnancy cause wider veins and an increase in blood volume. Then your uterus presses on major veins in your back and pelvis, making it harder for your heart to pump all of the extra blood and fluid up from your lower half. The excess fluid collects in the spaces between the cells of your tissues, which can lead to swelling in your lower half, especially after you’ve been on your feet for a while or you’re in warm conditions, which can make your veins expend even more.
Swelling is only something to worry about if it’s on one side but not the other, or if it comes on very rapidly– either of these symptoms can be signs of serious complications and if you experience them you should call your health care provider right away. But for regular pregnancy swelling there’s not a whole lot you can do but treat the symptoms. In the days after you give birth you’ll lose the excess fluid by sweating and using the bathroom a lot. But until birth, you can:
Try swimming. Floating in water and taking pressure off of your legs and ankles can help the fluid recirculate.
Wear sneakers or fabric flat shoes. High heels or tight shoes will pinch your expanding feet and ankles, and your feet and ankles can permanently stretch leather shoes, too.
Drink a lot of water. Doctors recommend that pregnant women drink two liters of water (or other liquids) per day. It seems counter-intuitive, but drinking lots of water will help dilute the sodium in your tissues and keep your circulation moving, helping you to retain less.
Get moving. Getting up your heart rate a little bit with a walk, swim or other physical activity will help get your blood pumping and that will help your edema. Swimming is particularly good because cool water can help reduce swelling, and floating plus the pressure of the water will reduce gravity’s pull on your lower half.
Avoid salt and caffeine. Consuming salt and sodium can make the swelling worse, and so can caffeine. Processed foods have a ton of sodium (salt is a preservative), check labels of pre-prepared foods such as lunch meats, frozen entrees and canned foods. Also avoid big servings of heavy foods like meats, cheeses and fried food, these are harder on your system (and can cause heartburn, too).
Start the day with pantyhose. Putting on maternity support hose before you get out of bed will help slow the swelling and ease the achiness that can come with it.
Put your feet up as much as possible throughout the day, and consider sleeping with your feet elevated. Sleeping on your left side will also help out your heart. In the evenings try elevating your feet with a cool compress on your ankles.