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Why do pregnant women experience swollen feet?

Swollen feet during pregnancy

There are several changes that occur during pregnancy that cause your feet to swell.

  1. Firstly, one of the earliest changes is that your circulating blood volume increases by around 50% during pregnancy.  This means that your heart has to work harder and there is more load on your veins and blood vessels to get blood away from your legs and back towards your heart, causing swelling.
  2. Secondly, a major hormone in pregnancy is progesterone.  This hormone makes the blood vessels more elastic and leaky, naturally increasing the fluid inside the legs and away from the blood vessels.
  3. Thirdly, our natural way to get rid of fluid from the legs is for our leg muscles, especially the calf muscles to contract as we walk to push fluid back towards our heart.  This is harder during pregnancy because not only is the load on these muscles higher with more blood to pump, but you start to move less and your body becomes heavier during pregnancy increasing the load on these muscles further.

So what can you do?

  1. Work on your leg and calf strength.  It is never too early or too late to start during pregnancy, but the earlier the better.  Making the muscles stronger  means that they can cope better with the increased fluid load on the legs.
  2. When able to, take short breaks with the legs raised.  Sitting or lying on your side with your legs elevated allows gravity to naturally take fluid away from your legs and back towards your heart
  3. Do not avoid drinking water to reduce fluid.  It is important to remain hydrated because it affects your ability to function and stay alert.  Reducing your fluid intake to reduce swelling can make you dehydrated, more fatigued and you will struggle to get on with your day.

For more information, give Michael a call on 03 9857 0644 or email at: michael.dermansky@mdhealth.com.au.

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