It often involves legs and feet, sometimes hands. When he shows up, it is always better to talk to the doctor to understand if it is physiological or if it is better to deepen.
Pregnant swelling is one of the most typical manifestations of the summer period. In particular, the legs and feet, sometimes the hands, suffer from swelling. So much so that it limits the future mother in wearing some sandals and, sometimes, even the rings. The disturbance, more or less intense, is usually cause for concern and annoyance. We talked about it with Anna Franca Cavaliere, gynaecologist at the Agostino Gemelli University Hospital Foundation IRCCS Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Rome and member of the SIGO (Italian Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics).
Why does it happen?
“The summer heat favours vasodilatation, which predisposes to oedema. Especially in the peripheral parts of the body, such as the lower limbs and hands, where the return of blood flow is more difficult,” explains Anna Franca Cavaliere. “And it accentuates the physiological vasodilatation typical of pregnancy. A mechanism that nature puts in place to promote blood circulation to the uterus.
Not only that: in pregnancy, the body’s fluids increase. And there is a reduction in albumin, which can promote the condition of edema in the limbs, especially the lower limbs. As well as the weight and volume of the uterus, which, especially in the third trimester, compresses and hinders the flow of blood. And the lymphatic circulation from the lower parts of the body to the heart. To be more penalized, future mothers who have had a higher weight gain than recommended. For a normal-weight woman, the recommendation is not to exceed 10-12 kilos. Therefore, it is always better not to exceed the suggested range.
Good habits to counteract swelling
“There are several small things that can be done. For example, don’t stand up too long, stay still. When resting, the best position is on the left side, which promotes blood flow to the heart,” advises the specialist. On the other hand, the supine position, in which the uterus weighs on the abdominal vessels, particularly the vena cava, should absolutely be avoided. It is useful to raise the feet of the bed to keep the lower limbs slightly raised with respect to the heart. During pregnancy it is good to take a nap, even without sleeping.”
Lymph-drainage massages can also help: “Better to avoid essential oils and buy specific products for pregnancy,” suggests the expert. Yes, also to activities in the water in the swimming pool, and walks on the shore of the sea, in the most appropriate hours. A last recommendation that may seem trivial, but is often disregarded: hydrate a lot, preferably drinking natural water.
Beware of pressure
But how can we be sure that the swelling is physiological? Related to the season and pregnancy and not a pathological condition? “In fact, edema is one of the signs of preeclampsia, a typical pathology of pregnancy. It is potentially dangerous for both the mother and the foetus,” observes the expert. “In this case, the swelling – which affects not only the lower part of the body, but also the upper part, especially the face – is sudden. And it is associated with a sudden increase in weight. Even two, three kilos in a few days. But the key element is the increase in blood pressure. And the pathological modification of blood-chemical and urinary tests, including proteinuria.
An extremely useful trick, which I always suggest in the second half of pregnancy, is to keep a pressurized diary. Just measure the pressure once a week – no matter what time of day – and follow the trend. If the values are kept around 90 mmHg for diastolic pressure – the minimum – and around 140 mmHg for systolic pressure – the maximum – it means that the situation is normal.