Mild edema or swelling in the ankles and feet is the most common side-effect of pregnancy. Nothing other than flip-flops seem to fit onto pregnant feet. Any such swelling usually subsides within 24 hours after childbirth. However, there are other times when swelling presents itself as an early symptom of another ensuing problem. In such cases there are additional symptoms along with swelling that can give some clue of the approaching problem. Today we are going to look at such symptoms, however it is important not to self-medicate in such a scenario. A medical practitioner is the best person to accurately diagnose a condition by looking at the different variables and patterns.
As far as mild swelling is concerned, there is no need to worry and a few things should be kept in mind to get some relief. Long periods of standing increases pressure on the legs so that should be avoided. Heels should be avoided as it may increase the chances of not just swelling, but also accidents. To give some rest to the legs, keep them at a level higher than the heart everyday for some time. Water is a pregnant lady’s best friend, so drink as much as possible even if it means going more frequently to the toilet. Salted foods can make swelling worse, so it's better to avoid it.
So here we are with the list of other lesser common causes of swelling that could be a cause of concern during pregnancy. All the symptoms below need immediate medical attention and treatment.
15 Abnormal Puffiness On The Face
A little bit of swelling is a common occurrence in pregnancy, especially in the last trimester and is completely normal. This swelling usually happens in the feet due to increased body weight. However, during pregnancy the body tends to retain a lot of fluids in the body. This fluid retention is known as edema. If the face starts swelling up, especially around the eyes then it could be a sign of worry.
Puffiness in the face and eyes can be easily identified by the mother herself, however the doctor may not be able to make out the changes on the face so it's better to take a pre-pregnancy picture to the doctor. This can help him understand the severity of the edema. Also, if it's quite severe then the skin takes time to regain its normal shape after pressing with a finger. It's called pitting edema. Pitting edema could be a sign of liver or kidney failure.
14 High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is not at all a good sign in pregnancy. Most of the time, high blood pressure is a symptom of preeclampsia. If not, it is an indicator of another problem in the body. Blood pressure needs to be constantly monitored if it has been deemed high. A blood pressure of 140/90 + is considered to be high if it has been checked twice with a gap of 6 hours.
In case of high blood pressure, home readings should be taken regularly. These readings may not be as accurate as the ones in the clinics, but it may still help in keeping a tab on it. Bed rest is usually advised during high blood pressure, but more than that, relaxation techniques like meditation can immediately help lower blood pressure. Also, blood pressure makes the pregnancy higher risk so it's better to see a specialist who can monitor the health closely.
13 Deep Vein Thrombosis
When the swelling in legs is accompanied by redness in the upper part of the knees then it can indicate a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). There could be other symptoms in one or both legs such as redness below the knees and back of the legs, tenderness and warm upon touch. These symptoms are painful, which could become severe in no time. The cause of deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in the legs.
Pregnancy is a risk factor for developing DVT. In 80% of cases, deep vein thrombosis occurs in the left leg. It is likely to develop if the mother is on bed rest or sits for long hours. Hormone replacement therapy, smoking or obesity may also lead to this condition. It's important to treat the blood clot immediately as there is a risk of the clot travelling to the lungs, which could be fatal.
12 Swelling, Redness And Fever
If a part of the skin on the legs, ankles or feet appears to be red, swollen and tender then it could be a sign of Cellulitis. It could sometimes be accompanied by fever, too. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that starts on cracked, swollen or broken skin. Since swelling and fluid retention is common during pregnancy, it is easy to catch this infection.
The most common type of bacterial infection in cellulitis is caused by staphylococcus bacteria. This infection can start anywhere on the body, but often legs or feet are prone to such infections. Doctors usually treat this infection with the help of antibiotics that are safe for pregnant women. An antibiotic cream is also prescribed to be applied on the infected area after washing it every day. Another increasingly common bacteria which causes cellulitis is methicillin resistant staphylococcus. Usually it's difficult to treat MRSA during pregnancy.
11 Swelling And Severe Headache
Any swelling along with a throbbing headache could be a warning sign of preeclampsia. If a slight headache subsides after taking an over-the-counter pregnancy safe drug pain reliever, there is no need to worry. However, if the headache persists and the body swells up then it is a sure sign to immediately visit the doctor. Such a headache has migraine-like symptoms and does not go away easily.
Although there could be instances of headache during early pregnancy that are caused by hormonal changes and blood pressure, they are usually mild and subside easily. However, headache caused by preeclampsia mostly happen in the third trimester accompanied by sudden swelling in the hands or feet. An obstetrician can diagnose the problem by monitoring blood pressure and testing for protein in the urine. A lot of rest is recommended in such cases and medication is prescribed to keep it under control.
10 Numbness Or Cold Hands And Feet
Numbness is also another common pregnancy symptom during the last trimester. It usually comes along with swelling and shows up in the morning after waking up or even while lying down at night. If this numbness worsens then it calls for a visit to the doctor as it could happen due to anemia, too. There could be a drop in the oxygen levels in the blood.
During pregnancy, the mother’s body needs more iron or folate in order to produce red blood cells for the baby. If the body doesn’t get extra folate then it leads to folate deficiency anemia, which is also known as vitamin B deficiency. Folate is present in abundance in leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli. If it is not treated then it may lead to serious consequences such as premature birth, low birth weight and even maternal death. A blood test can reveal the deficiency of iron in the body and if diagnosed, then the mother should include iron supplements along with an iron rich diet.
9 Swelling And Changes in Vision
Vision changes such as blurred vision, blind spots, sensitivity to light, flashing lights and auras can be a definitive symptom of a serious problem. There could be many problems linked to vision changes. The first one is an irritation in the central nervous system. Another possibility could be cerebral edema or swelling in the brain. Blurred vision can also result from high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.
It's important to contact a health care provider immediately in such circumstances. Ignoring the vision problems could have serious consequences. To keep up good health during pregnancy a little bit of exercising and a whole grain diet is a must for the mother. Stress will add to the troubles, so to stay away from it, try some yoga, reflexology or other common relaxation techniques. Sleeping on the left side can help maintain blood pressure. Blood pressure should be monitored at home at regular intervals if it is considered on the high side.
8 Abdominal Pain And Bloating
The reason of abdominal pain can be difficult to identify as it can be easily mixed up with gastric trouble. Sometimes it may also seem that the pain is due to the baby kicking or indigestion, however this pain is in a specific abdominal region. It is usually felt under the right side of the ribs, which is known as URQ (Upper Right Quadrant) or epigastric pain. The diagnosis of epigastric pain is a little difficult.
When the pain is severe and doesn’t subside, unlike gastric pain, and comes with other symptoms such as abdominal bloating, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, then it indicates a serious problem such as peptic ulcers, gallstones or hiatal hernias. Although it is not a life threatening problem, any severe pain should be treated immediately. In rare cases, this could be accompanied by chest pain that can indicate that the heart is not receiving enough oxygen.
7 Tingling Sensation In The Hands
Tingling sensation, pain, numbness and dull ache in hands, the fingers or even wrist are signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Pregnancy is one of the high risk factors of this syndrome along with those who work at jobs that require repetitive hand movements, such as computers. During pregnancy, swelling and fluid retention puts a lot of pressure on the median nerve in the carpal canal in the wrist and leads to its compression, hence the pain and numbness in the hands. That is the reason carpal tunnel syndrome is highly common in pregnant women.
The pain or numbness usually worsens at night and sometimes it leads to a bit of discomfort in the upper arm too. If not diagnosed and treated, the hands usually become weak. To ease the pain and numbness, the hands should be kept in a neutral position with the help of a brace. This will reduce the pressure on the nerve. Shaking the hands will also provide some relief.
6 Swelling And Proteinuria
Swelling in the hands and feet could also be caused by Proteinuria, which is the presence of high levels of protein in the urine. In a severe case, swelling can be noticed in the face, too. Usually, urine does not contain any amount of protein, however in pregnancy it is normal to find a little bit in the urine. If this amount of protein goes up beyond acceptable levels then it is called proteinuria. This condition is a sign of a kidney problem.
There could be many causes of proteinuria such as pre-eclampsia, kidney infection, stress and diabetes, however if it is accompanied by severe swelling it could probably mean preeclampsia. The doctors usually conduct a detailed examination to find out the exact cause. Immediate treatment needs to be started after the diagnosis to arrest the underlying health problem. Apart from swelling, another symptom of proteinuria could be foamy urine, which happens due to excess protein.
5 Sudden Swelling
Any sudden and severe swelling in the face, hands and feet can be a sign of preeclampsia. The bloating in such cases is severe as opposed to slight swelling in most pregnancies. Mild swelling that happens in most pregnancies improves overnight and increases by the end of the day. But if swelling persists then the cause isn’t pregnancy. Not all the cases of sudden swelling occur due to preeclampsia. There could be other probable reasons, but the most common is preeclampsia and it is a serious risk to the pregnancy.
In case of preeclampsia, sudden swelling is usually accompanied by vomiting, headache and stomach pain below the ribs. Other risk factors that may point to preeclampsia are age of the mother, obesity, kidney disease, history of high blood pressure and multiple pregnancies. Irrespective of these causes and the risk factors, any sudden swelling should be reported to the doctor without delay so that the cause could be determined quickly and treated immediately.
4 Swelling And Weakness In Legs
Experiencing weakness, fatigue and heaviness in the legs could be a symptom of varicose veins. Although lesions, discoloration and itching are clear signs of varicose veins, however, sometimes these symptoms are absent. There is a feeling of extreme weakness and swelling in the legs even before the much more evident symptoms appear. Varicose veins can happen to one in three pregnant women. In fact, varicose veins may continue to worsen as the pregnancy progresses due to the increase in pressure on the legs due to weight gained.
The cause of varicose veins is when the valves of the veins that send blood to the heart stop functioning properly and the blood stays in the legs. Fortunately, varicose veins tends to cure on their own after the baby is born and the pressure on the veins eases. During pregnancy, sleeping on the left side can take the pressure off the main vein to the legs, the vena cava.
3 Swelling And Sudden Weight Gain
Weight gain is bound to happen in pregnancy. However, any weight gain in a short duration of time can be sign of a serious problem. When we say sudden it means within a few days or a week. Weight gain of more than four pounds in less than a week’s time is considered to be sudden. This kind of weight gain along with swelling, points to a symptom of preeclampsia.
The weight gain usually is caused by too much water retention, which happens in pre-eclampsia. It's a life threatening disease and must be diagnosed and treated early. It can restrict the growth of the baby, and the mother is at a risk of getting seizures. Other reasons for weight gain could be diabetes or gestational diabetes. The right diagnosis at the right time is extremely important. So visit the doctor without any delay if such symptoms have started showing up.
2 Puffy Swelling And Breathing Trouble
Breathing trouble, along with swelling in the face is also not a healthy sign. If the mother is usually active, but has lately been experiencing difficulty in doing even simple jobs such as cooking and walking around the house accompanied with shortness of breath, these symptoms usually get better by taking adequate rest. It becomes extremely tiring to do any exercise. This kind of a condition is caused by congestive heart failure.
The heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to the body for providing nutrients to carry out any physical activity. When this disease worsens, then breathing difficulty comes even while sleeping. Fluid starts building up in the lungs and it becomes highly difficult to sleep without many pillows or a recliner. Lung fluid comes out with coughing as a frothy pink liquid when the condition worsens. Any difficulty breathing should be reported to the doctor immediately.
1 Swelling And Tremors
Shaking and trembling hands are experienced by many women during pregnancy and it could happen at any stage. There could be many reasons for shivering such as low blood sugar levels, not eating properly or drinking enough water. However, when the trembling happens along with other symptoms such as abnormal or sudden swelling, headache, nausea, numbness in the hands or feet, then contact the doctor as soon as possible. Any difficulty in going to the bathroom is also a sign to seek medical advice.
The most common cause of swelling and shaking could be preeclampsia. Other causes could be pneumonia, salmonellosis, appendicitis, anemia or viral gastroenteritis. Even in case of low blood pressure the body may start trembling and the mother may feel lightheaded and dizzy. A thorough medical check up can reveal the root of the problem. If there are no other symptoms with the shaking then having ginger tea or juices and soups can be tried to get some relief from shivering.