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As Prescribed Blog



As Prescribed Blog

Swelling belly, swollen ankles?

Angie Adler, OT February 15, 2012 0 Comments Family Medicine

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know how awful swelling can get in your feet and ankles – especially in the last trimester. Your skin feels itchy, tight and stretched to the max and your legs look like elephant trunks, but it’s NORMAL. (Just like most of the weird things your body does during pregnancy!)

 When I was pregnant nine years ago, I couldn’t wear socks or tie my shoes the last three weeks of the pregnancy, but I also couldn’t see my feet so I figured “out of sight, out of mind!”  My doctor suggested special hose, laying on my left side and elevating my legs above my heart – easier said than done. Further, I had to watch my blood pressure because the swelling can be a symptom of preeclampsia.


For 80% of pregnant women, the question remains - what can be done about lower leg swelling?  First, you need to understand what is causing it. The lymph system is comprised of three parts the lymph fluid (the swelling you see around your ankles and feet), the lymph vessels (how the fluid moves from lymph nodes to lymph nodes) and the lymph nodes. We have about 300-500 hundred lymph nodes throughout our body.  There are major lymph nodes in the arm pit area (axillary) and in the groin area (inguinal.)  As baby gets bigger your thoracic area pushes down on the inguinal lymph nodes and stops the flow of lymph fluid out of the lower extremities, resulting in swelling. To completely get rid of the extra fluid would be to find a way to take the pressure off the inguinal lymph nodes and start the lymph flow again. Giving birth is one obvious way, but it may take up to two weeks to reduce the edema and actually slide into your pre-pregnancy shoes or jeans. 

 Another option would be to wear compression maternity panty hose or knee-highs, if you cannot tolerate pantyhose. If you’d like to explore compression garments, Juzo and Jobst offer a good quality product. Check online or with your local pharmacy.

 Last but not least…exercise! Try walking at least 10- 20 minutes per day because the calf muscles have a pumping effect on the lymph system and the motion helps to move the lymph fluid out of the lower extremities.