During your pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, your body may retain more fluid than usual. We call this oedema. Your ankles, fingers, and in some cases even your face may swell. It's not nice, but your body has a good reason for it. In principle it can do no harm, provided you do not suffer from high blood pressure. You can read why this combination can be dangerous further on in this blog.
What is oedema?
Oedema is fluid retention in places where your body normally does not. During your pregnancy, your body can hold up to two to three extra litres of fluid. And with good reason! Because all that extra fluid is needed so that the tissues can stretch and sag before delivery. All those litres can accumulate in different parts of your body. Because of gravity you will first experience swollen ankles and feet. But your hands, arms and face can also retain moisture. And you can still add those kilos (not)! But don't worry, they will disappear after your pregnancy.
Do you doubt that you suffer from oedema? Then try this: press a swelling with your finger and see if there is a dimple in the skin. If that is the case, you probably have an accumulation of fluid. Often you will experience a tense sensation in the area of the swelling and in some cases your joints may start to ache (Nutrition Centre).
Do you suffer from tingling or 'numb' fingers? Then you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. You can read all about it in this blog.
What can you do against oedema?
It probably won't go away completely, but we have a few tips for you to ease the possible burden:
Drink enough - Peeing helps to get rid of the excess fluid in your body. Make sure you drink at least 2 litres - preferably water or tea - a day.
Eat little salt - Salt retains moisture, so try to ingest as little as possible to prevent or reduce edema.
Put your legs up when you sit - Defy gravity and help the fluid to rise by elevating your legs. The fluid can then find its way up more easily.
Moving - Make sure you get enough exercise. Movement improves the blood circulation so that the fluids can be discharged better.
Massage - Massage (or better yet, have massaged) the fluid out of your swollen feet and ankles (Gezondheidsplein).
Can oedema hurt?
In principle not, as long as your blood pressure remains normal. If your blood pressure is elevated, this in combination with oedema may indicate preeclampsia. In that case, contact your midwife. When in doubt, always call. Preeclampsia can be harmful to both the baby and you. So better safe than sorry (Pregnancy Portal)!
Editor Healthsplein. (2020, August 7). Edema. Consulted from https://www.gezondheidsplein.nl/aandoeningen/oedeem/item32118
Nutrition Center. (s.d.). I'm pregnant and I'm retaining a lot of fluid. What can I do? Consulted from https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/nl/service/vraag-en-antwoord/zwanger-en-baby/ik-ben-zwanger-en-houd-veel-vocht-vast-wat-kan-ik-doen-.aspx
Pregnancy Portal. (2019, September 22). Preeclampsia. Consulted from https://www.zwangerenportaal.nl/zwanger/kwaaltjes-en-klachten/zwangerschapsvergiftiging