Swelling (Oedema)


Is this normal in pregnancy?

Mild swelling of the feet and ankles, caused by fluid retention, is very common in pregnancy. The build up of fluid is due to the pressure of the heavy uterus restricting the veins which return the circulation from the legs into the pelvis.

As long as there are no other symptoms, a moderate amount of swelling can be considered normal, especially towards full term, in hot weather, and at the end of the day. It is also quite common for the fingers to swell, due to a build up of fluid in the wrist. Any sudden onset swelling, particularly of the face, should be taken seriously. If you're worried, it is best to contact the maternity unit for advice.

What can I do to relieve it?

The usual advice is to put your feet up, but for this to be effective the feet have to be higher than the pelvis, not just on the same level.

Walking can be very uncomfortable once the feet are swollen, but the pumping action of the calf muscle can help to disperse the fluid. Alternatively, while you sit with your feet up, try to paddle your feet up and down, and rotate your feet and ankles first clockwise, then anti-clockwise.

Exercise in water, such as swimming, or aquanatal classes can also be beneficial. The buoyancy alleviates the pressure of the uterus on the pelvic veins and the hydrostatic pressure of the water on the outside of the leg helps to force the excess fluid out of the tissues and back into the circulation.

Massage or reflexology can also help if carried out by an appropriately trained practitioner.