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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more


In the second half of your pregnancy, you may look down at your feet and ankles and gasp at the sight of no anklebones! This is especially true if you are pregnant during the summer months when heat can add to the swelling. This swelling of your legs and ankles is due to edema and is perfectly normal.

Edema is caused by the extra blood and fluids circulating through your body during your pregnancy. Your growing uterus puts pressure on the pelvic veins and the vena cava (a large vein on the right side of the body that receives blood from the lower limbs) and circulation slows down, causing your blood to pool. Pressure is caused from trapped blood forcing water down into the tissues of your feet and ankles. In addition to this fluid displacement, you may also be retaining excess water, which can add to the swelling.

Edema is quite common and normal during pregnancy so don't be alarmed. However, if you experience severe and/or sudden swelling in your hands and face call your doctor. Swelling in these areas is not usually associated with edema and could be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious condition for both you and your baby.

Here are some tried and true strategies to control edema:

  • Elevate your feet whenever possible. Swelling in the legs is often called "gravity edema," and it will decrease when your legs and feet are elevated. At work, prop your feet up under your desk on a stool or stack of books, and at home, try to lie on your left side whenever possible.

  • Wear support pantyhose. The best way to prevent edema on a daily basis is to put support pantyhose on before getting out of bed in the morning so that the blood doesn't have the chance to pool around your ankles. Yes, it sounds impossible getting a pregnant body into support pantyhose while still in bed, but it can be done and it will be worth the effort. What a great way to start the day with a good laugh at yourself!

  • Drink plenty of water. It sounds counterintuitive, but the more water you drink, the less fluid your body will retain. Go figure!

  • Exercise regularly. Walking, swimming or riding an exercise bike are most effective at avoiding edema. Just be sure to get your doctor's okay before starting any new exercise and make sure your heart rate doesn't get too high.

  • Eat a well balanced, nutritious diet and avoid extra sodium and salty foods like olives and salted nuts.

So if you are feeling like one of those big balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, sit down and kick off those tight shoes, put your feet up and relax with a BIG glass of water!


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