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Swollen ankles in pregnancy

Swollen ankles often happen in pregnancy. Here’s why they swell, what you can do about it and signs your ankles are giving you about pre-eclampsia

Posted: 12 March 2011
by Kimberley Smith

Swollen ankles can be a sign of pre-eclampsia but in the majority of pregnancies, they’re usually just one of the many slight discomforts pregnancy brings.

If you’ve tested negative for pre-eclampsia, swollen ankles are just a byproduct of the extra baby weight and fluid retention that comes with pregnancy. Sometimes called ‘oedema’, many women suffer from this and it’s nothing to worry about.

What is oedema?

This is a swelling due to excess fluid building up, causing your ankles or legs to seem inflated. Fortunately (or perhaps not!) it generally looks worse than it is and 75% of mums-to-be will suffer from it at some point. It’s also worth remembering that it can stick around after birth, though it should ease on its own.

As it's nowhere near as sore as it looks, many women don’t notice they have it until they sit down at the end of the day, put their feet up and see their Nora Batty ankles staring back at them! It will happen more if you’ve spent a long time on your feet and often comes on in the evening.

Treatment for swollen ankles

• Put your feet up and rest. When seated, make sure you and your bump are supported well so you don't get a stiff back and raise your feet on a pillow or footrest.

• Keep up your fluids. This is advisable generally in pregnancy but drinking water also helps flush your system through and can actually help to guard against water retention. (Drink it steadily through the day rather than over-filling in one sitting.)

• Eat less salt. This can make your body retain water so try and avoid it were possible.

• Try to avoid tight-fitting shoes and hosiery. Some women find pregnancy support tights may actually help to keep the swelling at bay but discuss this with your doctor or midwife. And tempting as they may be, find out why Uggs and high heels are a big no-no.

• Exercise and stretch. Keeping active in pregnancy can help prevent oedema occuring. Moderate regular exercises that are safe in pregnancy include walking and swimming. Stretching your legs and feet can also help so activities such as pregnancy yoga and pilates can make a difference too.

When to see your doctor

If the swelling doesn’t go down overnight or after a few hours and is affecting your hands, face or other parts of your body, call your midwife or doctor. Again, it might just be swelling due to heat, but they can reassure you that it’s not more serious.

Find out more about your pregnancy


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