Swollen Feet After Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, your body will begin to retain more water than normal and because of this, it is common to experience swelling in various parts of the body such as the legs, feet and ankles. Postpartum swelling that affects your hands and feet is also known as edema and happens if blood and fluid are trapped in your body’s tissues. In most cases this postpartum swelling will naturally decrease after you give birth. There are some things that you can do to help minimize the swelling both during pregnancy and afterwards.

Causes of Swollen Feet after Pregnancy

The swelling of the hands and feet associated with pregnancy can vary from woman to woman, ranging from extreme to mild. The swelling can lead to the skin having an appearance that is stretched, inflamed, puffy or shiny. In some cases, pressing down on the skin may result in it staying sunken in for a few seconds. In addition to affecting your hands and feet, pregnancy related swelling can also affect other areas of the body such as your legs, ankles and abdomen.


The swelling, or edema, is due to the extra water that your body retains during pregnancy. In fact, most of the weight gain that is associated with pregnancy is due to water retention as the extra fluid will help your tissues deal with the baby’s growth and prepare your pelvic area for safe labor.

At the later stages in pregnancy, your uterus will be enlarged and therefore exert increased pressure on the veins that provide the blood supply for your feet and legs, thereby affecting the blood flow and increasing the fluid retention. This swelling should gradually recede after you give birth because your body will be eliminating the extra fluid.

How the Swelling Recedes

This gradual decrease in swelling should happen over the course of around a week. During the process your kidneys participate in most of the elimination of excess fluids which leads to increased urination. In addition to urinating more often immediately after pregnancy, additional fluids will be excreted through your pores in the form of sweat.

When to Worry

In almost all cases postpartum swelling is nothing to be concerned about as every woman will experience it after pregnancy. It is possible, however, for complications to occur and it is important to contact your doctor if your swelling lasts for more than a week after giving birth. You should also contact your doctor if you have leg pain or bad headaches as either can indicate high blood pressure. If the swelling is associated with severe pain or only on one side, you should contact your health care provider to check for blood clots.

How to Ease Swollen Feet after Pregnancy

Rest and proper posture

You should try to rest as much as you can, preferable with your feet higher than your hips. You should also to avoid crossing your legs. If you need to stand for a long time, try to shift your weight between feet and sit whenever possible.


Ask your significant other to gently massage your legs and feet starting at the bottom and working up. (Only do this if it is not painful for you)

Soak your feet with essential oils

You should try not to use aromatherapy essential oils during the massage but if you want, you can soak your feet in a mixture of water and the oils. Cypress oil can help with varicose veins and circulation while chamomile and lavender oil can reduce discomfort.

Apply cabbage leaves

Wipe cool (refrigerated, not frozen) white or green cabbage leaves on your swollen areas as this will draw out some excess fluid.

Try herbal remedy

Dandelion tea can help prevent you from retaining fluid but you should always use herbal teas in moderation and never if you have gall bladder problems.


Acupuncture can help by rebalancing the internal energies as well as helping kidney function and circulation.

More remedies

  • When you are asleep, try putting several pillows underneath your feet to elevate them.
  • You can also try lying down on your side to reduce swelling by increasing blood circulation.
  • Do your best to stay cool as heat will increase the swelling.
  • Mild exercise can also help (such as walking or swimming).

How to Prevent Swollen Feet after Pregnancy

It is not always possible to prevent your feet from becoming swollen during pregnancy but taking certain steps can decrease the severity of the swelling. This means that your legs and feet are less likely to become painful and tender.

The best way to prevent severe swelling is to consume a balanced diet which will mean you won’t gain excess weight during your pregnancy.

  • To make sure that your diet is balanced, be sure to include a little bit of lean protein at each meal. Good examples include poultry, meat, eggs, legumes and beans.
  • In addition, you should pay attention to your fruit and vegetable intake, aiming to consume at least 5 portions of this food group daily.
  • You should also decrease your consumption of sugar, fat and salt and increase the amount of water you drink. Drinking more water will help the kidneys filter out any excess fluid.
  • You should also pay attention to which foods are natural diuretics as these can help your kidneys stay healthy and allow you to urinate frequently, reducing the swelling. Some natural diuretics are citrus fruits, apples, small quantities of parsley, watercress and celery but you should always be careful not to get dehydrated.
  • You can also try to eat more garlic and onion to improve your body’s circulation.
  • In addition to avoiding sugar, fat and salt, you should also avoid pre-packaged or processed foods when you can as these will increase fluid retention due to their high salt and additive content.
  • Instead, you should focus on foods that contain a great deal of vitamin C and vitamin E. To get vitamin C, try eating more broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, melons, red and green peppers and citrus fruits. To increase your intake of vitamin E, eat more corn oil margarine, almonds and cashews, sweetcorn, wheat germ, sunflower seeds and vegetable oils (such as wheat germ, corn and soy).
  • You should also try to quit smoking, not only for your baby’s health but also to reduce the swelling associated with pregnancy.
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