Swollen, achy feet and legs are a common symptom during pregnancy and the early days of postpartum recovery. During pregnancy, your body produces more fluid, causing frequent trips to the bathroom and swelling in the feet and ankles. The weight of the growing baby and uterus also puts pressure on the veins that pass through the pelvis carrying blood back to the heart, impeding circulation and contributing to the swelling.
The swelling can also cause your legs to feel heavy and achy. Combined with the lax ligaments in the hips, pelvis and joints of the feet during pregnancy, leg pain is also a common pregnancy-related ache. The good news? There's a lot you can do to help alleviate swollen, achy feet and legs!
Here are a few helpful, easy-to-do tips:
1. Sleep on your side to keep pressure off the veins carrying blood back to your heart.
2. Get off your feet throughout the day as frequently as possible, even for just a few minutes. It helps to elevate your feet above the level of your heart, if possible. Try stretching your legs up against a wall and add in some ankle exercises a couple times a day—check out instructions in the video below.
3. Stretch the calf muscles and exercise the toes to prevent charlie-horse cramps in the calves and achy feet. Try the gentle, effective exercises featured in the video below.
4. Limit salt! Leave the shaker on the table to avoid retaining even more excess fluids.
5. Stay cool. Swelling is worse in high temperatures.
6. Use compression pantyhose in cases of persistent swelling. Regular tights can help, but if you have significant swelling you can ask your doctor for a prescription for special compression stockings.
In rare instances, swelling and pain in the legs can indicate a serious condition. If you have swelling or pain in only one leg or if swelling comes on suddenly, you should contact your doctor immediately.