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  • How to Prevent Edema During Pregnancy

    During pregnancy, a woman's feet and ankles are so swollen that they feel like they are about to burst. It’s a struggle to get shoes on and some women dread the idea of having to walk, stand or do anything that requires using their feet. Called edema, swollen feet and ankles are a common pregnancy symptom.

    When pregnant, a woman's body produces 50% more blood and fluids than it normally does. These extra fluids are necessary for the development of the baby, but carrying around that extra liquid in the body can make other parts of a pregnant woman's body – aside from her belly (which is, of course, largely due to the growing bean living inside) – swell.

    Because of the laws of gravity, that fluid is often pulled down into the feet and ankles, or ‘cankles’, as some pregnant women may be affectionately calling them these days. The swelling can vary, but it usually tends to be less severe in the morning and progresses as the day goes on. By the evening, the feet and ankles may look like balloons!

    Generally, the longer a woman stands on her feet, the more swelling she will experience. Also, the weather can impact edema, with more swelling experienced in warmer, more humid conditions.

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    Get Off Your Feet!

    Typically, edema starts to set in sometime during the third trimester. While there aren’t any miracle cures or medical interventions that can prevent the swelling (except delivering your baby,) there are ways that you can help you avoid – and ease – edema.

    Being on your feet for an extended period of time will lead to more swelling. As the laws of gravity dictate, objects are pulled down, including the fluid in your body. So, the longer you are on your feet, the more that extra fluid is going to collect in your feet and ankles.

    If you have to stand for prolonged periods of time for work, or for any other reason, make sure you take intermittent breaks. Sit down or take a walk for five minutes every hour or half-hour to prevent the fluid from building up.

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    Kick Back and Relax

    Elevating your feet can greatly reduce the risk of developing edema, and can help to ease the swelling, should you experience it. Elevating your feet also helps increase the circulation as it helps your heart to pump the blood back to the heart and also stops fluid from pooling in your lower extremities with the help of gravity.

    Whenever possible, sit back and put your feet up. Putting the feet up higher than the rest of your body is the best way to prevent and reduce swelling, so go ahead and put a pillow – or two or three – under them.

    Gravity may not always be your friend during pregnancy, but making gravity work for you means that you can get along once in a while until your little bundle makes their grand entrance.

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    Get Some Exercise

    Getting in some exercise helps to prevent and reduce swelling because it keeps the blood flowing instead of pooling. Circulation is key to stopping your lower body from ballooning, quite literally. And it doesn't have to be strenuous exercise either, simply walking, yoga and even swimming are all great ways to get your blood moving again.

    There are tons of safe exercises that pregnant women can do that will minimize swelling, just make sure you check with your doctor to make sure you know which exercises are the safest for you to do.

    Of course if you're having a high risk pregnancy, then you'll have to go ahead and ignore this tip, but for women who are able, getting up and moving around is your best way to stop yourself from swelling up in your legs, ankles and feet. Besides, you may find that you can't even fit in your shoes if your feet swell too much in the last trimester.

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    Sleep in the Fetal Position

    Funny that sleeping in the fetal position when you have a fetus in your womb is not only comfortable, but very helpful during pregnancy. Who knew!

    Sleeping on your side keeps your kidneys working, which helps with the elimination of waste and minimizes swelling. If possible, sleep on the left side for optimal results. Some women find it hard to sleep in the fetal position all night, so if you find it impossible to sleep all night long in a fetal position, think about adding pillows to put under your feet so you can elevate them while you sleep.

    You might feel ridiculous surrounded by so many pillows, but most pregnant women say there's no such thing as too many pillows during pregnancy.

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    Be Mindful of Salt

    It may be hard, especially if you are having cravings, but limiting the amount of salt you eat can greatly reduce swelling. However, there is a caveat here, eliminating it completely, or even drastically reducing your intake can actually reduce swelling.

    Don’t cut salt completely out of your diet, but do make sure that you keep tabs on the amount you are eating. Now is a good time to even get into the habit of reading food labels. Many processed foods and canned gods actually contain more salt than you would think. carefully select your food choices in the last trimester and you'll be glad you did.

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    Don’t Wear Elastic Socks

    You want the fluids to flow, you don’t want to bind them. Wearing elastic-topped stockings or socks can prevent those fluids from flowing causing edema. Instead, wear socks or stockings that have looser, less restricting tops to keep that extra blood and fluid moving.

    If you have a bad case of edema, your doctor may suggest that you wear compression socks. These types of socks help encourage circulation in your legs and feet. The only catch is that they look like the socks you great grandmother would have worn. Yeah, not pretty.

    look for socks that don't use elastic threads in their manufacturing, wear all cotton, bamboo or another breathable fabric that will stop edema from torturing your poor feet.

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    Support Hose Could Help

    Support hose could help to keep the swelling at bay. these work by gently sqeezing your legs and encouraging the blood to move up your legs. Choose knee-high, thigh-high or full pantyhose. Whatever you choose, make sure that you choose something that stretches and is comfortable to keep the fluids moving along.

    Another reason why you'll want to wear these socks is that they help minimize the chances of varicose veins. why not take care of two problems with one solution? You may not love how these support hose look, but they offer a lot of benefit to the wearer. Try them out for yourself, worst case scenario, you wear them for a week and find they look terrible, but bring a lot of relief.

    Check your local maternity store, they should have some in stock for a woman in ned.

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    Choose Comfy Shoes

    You don’t really need an excuse to wear comfortable shoes when you are pregnant, but if you’re looking for one, preventing edema is an excellent reason. Many women choose to wear flip flops since there's no restriction around the foot, letting you hang it all out there. Some women might even buy special orthotics for their last trimester.

    They may not be as cute as your wedges, but orthotics can offer great support for your ankles and feet. If you want to be mindful of fashion, you could get orthotic inserts. Not only can this extra support reduce swelling, but it can provide you with the extra support in your back and reduce your pain, too.

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    Drink Plenty of Water

    This might sound counter productive when you hear it, but it's true. Drinking more water means your body is better able to filter out toxins and even reduce swelling in your extremities.

    You want to prevent or ease swelling, so why would you want to drink a lot of water? It may not make sense, but drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day will eliminate the extra sodium and waste in your body and minimize your swelling.

    Try adding a few extra glasses of water to your day. You'll find that this habit also helps later on once the baby is here and you're ready to begin breastfeeding as well. Water does work wonders, so give it a try!

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    Lay Off the Junk Food

    Those chips and dips may be calling your name, but these junk food snacks are loaded with sodium, and sodium causes swelling. Replace that big plate of fries with a salad topped with a little bit of salt (just to quench your craving) and you could keep that swelling at bay.

    Try eating low sodium items and reduced salt items, this will also help you to eat what you want, but without all the salt the regular product has. You might even consider making items that you normally buy, such as salad dressing. This way you control how much salt goes into your food.

    Taking control over what you eat could be key to stopping edema from causing real trouble for you! Again, gothrough your kitchen and read how much sodium and salt is in your food and see fi there's anything you can make on your own.

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    Don’t Cross Your Legs

    Crossing your legs can restrict the flow of those extra fluids, which in turn, results in swelling. Keep your legs uncrossed when you are sitting and your feet and ankles will be less puffy and you’ll be much more comfortable.

    Not to mention that crossing your legs also contributes to varicose veins and spider veins. This can be a hard habit to stop, so if you find yourself unconsciously crossing your legs, just uncross them when you find yourself crossing them.

    If this is a habit you make at work, as if you can have a foot rest at your desk so you have a place to rest your feet. This should stop you from crossing your legs and also elevate you feet helping your circulation.

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    Up Vitamin C Intake

    Vitamin C naturally reduces swelling in the body. To up your intake, you can either take vitamin C supplements (talk to your doctor about this before you start taking them,) or eat a diet that of foods that are rich in vitamin C.

    But in the hot days of summer, definitely eating some cold refreshing melon will not only cool your insides, but also help you with your edema.

    Some vitamin C-packed foods include:

    • Citrus fruits, like oranges
    • Melons, like watermelon and cantaloupe
    • Potatoes
    • Tomatoes
    • Strawberries
    • Cabbage
    • Broccoli
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    Up Your Vitamin E Intake

    Vitamin E also naturally reduces swelling. You can take a supplement to increase your E intake (again, talk to your doctor before taking a supplement.) Adding more foods that are high in vitamin E can also help to reduce swelling.

    These also make great snacks, so why not make a healthy trail mi with these nuts and seeds and fight your edema at the same time.

    Foods that are rich in vitamin E include:

    • Cashews
    • Almonds
    • Sweet corn
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Vegetable oils
    • Wheatgerm
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    Try Circling Your Feet

    Here's a simple exercise you can do anywhere to fight the swelling in your feet and legs. Hold a foot up and circle it clockwise, about 10 times, and then counterclockwise, another 10 times. Afterward, repeat with the opposite foot. This exercise can get the blood and fluids flowing, thus reducing swelling.

    You can make a game of it and do it three times a day, once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once before bed. Keep track of how many times you do these exercises to help you get an idea of how effective this exercise is in helping you with your circulation and swelling.

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    Give Aromatherapy a Try

    Essential oils have the ability to reduce swelling. Cypress oil, for example, is great for circulation, while lavender and chamomile oils can help to ease any discomfort that you may be experiencing.

    Ask your partner to place some essential oils in his hand and then gently massage your feet and legs. If he works upwards from your feet to your knees, it will really help to move the fluid and blood around, which can help to ease the swelling; not to mention a massage will help to relax you, overall.

    It may be worth it to try a number of these tips at once, that way you can enjoy your last trimester as much as possible without all the pain of swelling that edema can cause. Besides, wouldn't it be worth it to get the relief you so desperately need from your swollen legs to your swollen feet?

    Resources: BabyCenter, What to Expect, American Pregnancy

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