Water retention during pregnancy is a common complaint, just another of the not so joyful aspects of being a Mum to be. More than 50% of pregnant women report that they suffer from water retention and swelling at some point in their pregnancy but knowing that most swelling and water retention is normal does not make it feel any better!
Why Am I Retaining So Much Water?
Water retention – also often called bloating – during pregnancy is, for the most part, caused by all of those raging hormones and it is actually an important part of the body preparing itself for childbirth.
Over the course of your pregnancy your body will fill with around 50% more blood, body fluids and water. This is to help ‘soften’ the body in preparation for the grueling task ahead of it (giving birth) as well as to provide the growing Baby with all the blood and fluids they need too. In fact about 25% of pregnancy weight gain is fluid based!
Water Retention and bloating can occur at any time during pregnancy but it usually becomes more noticeable after the fourth or fifth month. Swelling of the hands, ankles, feet and even the face is common.
Most of this is all harmless. The one time you should be concerned however is if the swelling is very sudden or if only one leg or ankle swells a great deal as these can be signs of pre-eclampsia, a serious condition that will need to be treated right away. Other signs include dizziness, sudden nausea and being unable to urinate. If you are at all concerned that any of this is happening to you along with sudden or unilateral swelling contact you ob gynae right away.
Things that Can Make Pregnancy Related Water Retention Worse
Although some of this bloating is normal and fairly unavoidable there are some things that do tend to make matters worse. These include:
Standing in one spot for a long time
Spending too time out in the sun
A long day of activity (like a day at work, whatever you do)
A diet high in sodium or caffeine
A diet low in potassium
Stress (stress makes everything worse, Mothers!)
Things You Can do to Lessen Water Retention and Feel More Comfortable
Water retention – and the bloating that comes along with it – is uncomfortable to say the least. There are some things you can do to help reduce the bloating a little and to make yourself feel a little less heavy and awkward as well:
Don’t Wear Tight Clothes – Tight clothing of any kind – especially tight trousers, stockings, socks and shoes restrict your natural blood flow and make water retention and bloating even worse.
Even if you don’t think you are quite ready for maternity wear if water retention and bloating become a problem make the switch now. Being comfortable throughout the day is far more important than being fashionable and there are some truly gorgeous maternity clothes out there these days anyway.
Tight shoes can be even worse as it is the feet that tend to swell the most in pregnant women. To avoid having to go home barefoot start the day in shoes that fit well and carry a pair of soft sneakers or even soft, flexible ballet-style slippers in your bag for days when your feet get really big!
Don’t Stand for Too Long – Standing for too long causes all kinds of aches and pains for pregnant women, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. If sitting is not a possibility for a while (if for instance you are queuing up for the bus) moving around just a little bit will help keep leg swelling at bay.
Elevate Your Legs when Sitting – Whenever possible elevate your legs a little when sitting. If you are still working at a desk job bring a small stool to work to keep your feet propped up on or grab a spare chair!
Get Some Exercise – Exercise helps keep water retention at bay too. Walking, yoga and especially swimming can all be quite a big help.
Stay Hydrated – Sounds silly, drinking more water to relieve water retention but it really does help and you need to stay hydrated when you are pregnant for your overall health anyway. If you are bored of water try herbal tea instead.
Foods That Can Help Reduce Pregnancy Related Water Retention
There are certain foods that can also help reduce the discomfort of water retention and bloating. These include:
- Onions (really)
- Herbal tea, especially green tea
- Bananas (which are full of potassium)
The one thing you should do is avoid adding too much extra sodium to your diet. A pregnant woman does need a certain, small amount of sodium so you don’t have to go completely salt free but try adding less salt to your meals in addition to what you are already cooking with.
However uncomfortable you are you should avoid using an over the counter diuretics. Your body really does need some of that extra fluid and these chemical concoctions can dehydrate you rather quickly and cause more problems than they solve.