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Swelling of Hands & Feet

Swelling is normal in pregnancy especially towards the third trimester.  This is due to a number of reasons:

  • Blood volume: during pregnancy your blood volume doubles this mostly happens in the third trimester
  • Growing bump: your uterus expands and compresses onto one of the main veins (inferior vena cava) that carries blood from the legs to the heart. This compression causes a slowing of the return of the blood which can also contribute to fluid pooling in the lower limbs
  • Hormonal changes: the hormones you produce during pregnancy also make your vein walls softer which can also contribute to slower blood return and more likely to pool.


  • Happens later in pregnancy
  • Comes on slowly and is often worse at the end of the day
  • Worsens when standing for long periods
  • Comes on gradually and appears in both feet
  • Improves with lying down/ elevating feet


There are a number of simple solutions for managing the swelling but it will continue to reoccur throughout the pregnancy.

  • avoid standing for long periods
  • stay active
  • remove rings and tight bracelets before hands and wrists become too swollen
  • submerging your feet in water can help push out the fluid the deeper the submersion the better the effect due to the hydrostatic pressure ie standing in a pool up to your chest is better than just submerging your feet in a bucket
  • keep hydrated
  • take short rests throughout the day and if possible elevate your feet and try some gentle ankle pumps
  • wear comfortable shoes and socks none that are too tight
  • compression socks can be worn if the swelling is becoming problematic but needs to be correctly fitted
  • diet: reduce sodium & caffeine and increase potassium rich foods (bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocado)
  • get a massage – always gently working the fluid towards the heart
  • try and stay cool especially during summer months or in hot climates


There are times when the swelling accompanied by other symptoms could be cause for concern as they may be signs of pre-eclampsia or a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and should seek medical help urgently:

  • if the swelling comes on rapidly especially in the face as well as the hands and feet
  • a bad headache
  • blurred vision and or flashing lights
  • severe pain below ribs
  • vomiting along with the other symptoms
  • single leg swollen and or redness or warmth in the calf or thigh



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