If you are suffering from water retention, you’re not alone – up to 80 than normal during pregnancy), and the strain that puts on your circulatory system.
In particular, a major vein called the inferior vena cava, which is on the right side of your body, is working very hard. Its job is to carry blood from your lower body back up towards your heart, but all the extra blood, not to mention pressure being put on your pelvic veins by your growing uterus, tends to make the inferior vena cava less efficient.
The result is that your blood pools, and water is then forced down through capillaries (tiny blood vessels) towards your lower legs, ankles and feet. To add to all this, pregnancy hormones upset all sorts of normal balances within your body, including levels of sodium and potassium – and this leads to your body retaining more fluid, rather than absorbing and expelling it.
Water retention normally occurs from the feet up (you might notice your shoes start to feel tight) with ankles and lower legs also commonly affected. Towards the latter stages of pregnancy, your hands might also swell and feel a bit podgy. All these symptoms will often worsen as the day goes on; your feet might look quite normal when you wake, and like plucked chickens by bed time!
Although water retention is unpleasant, with affected areas feeling heavy, or wobbly and tender, the good news is everything should go back to normal shortly after your baby arrives. During the first few days after giving birth, it might feel worse than ever, but then suddenly, you’ll find yourself needing a wee constantly and sweating profusely. As attractive as that sounds, it’s just your body’s natural way of expelling all the excess fluid.
Before reading about ways to relieve the symptoms of water retention, it’s very important to distinguish between oedema, which is common and poses no risk, and pre-eclampsia, which is a serious condition requiring urgent treatment. If swelling comes on suddenly or severely in your hands, feet and/or face,…