Swollen Feet During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of many changes while waiting for your new baby to arrive. One change many people experience is swollen ankles and feet. Feet swelling during pregnancy is common because your body is undergoing hormonal changes and is producing extra blood. 

The amount of swelling you experience will depend on different factors such as the seasons in which you’re pregnant (for example, in the hot weather of summer) and the time of day. This article covers the causes of foot swelling during pregnancy, when to see a doctor, and ways to reduce the swelling. 

Man rubbing pregnant women's foot while sitting on a couch

Eva-Katalin / Getty Images

Causes of Swollen Feet During Pregnancy

Swelling (also called edema) in some areas of the body is normal and common for most people during pregnancy. It develops for several reasons, including changes in hormones, blood volume, fluid, and circulation. 

Increases in the hormone progesterone during pregnancy slow down digestion and circulation. The changes in digestion lead to more fluid being absorbed by the large intestine, which increases fluid volume. Progesterone also slows down circulation and relaxes blood vessels, making it easier for fluid to build up in the feet. 

In addition to hormonal changes, there is just more fluid and blood in the body as pregnancy progresses. The pregnant person’s blood volume increases about 45% or 1.2–1.6 liters during pregnancy. 

The increased blood helps support a healthy pregnancy and fetal growth and prepares the body for labor. But it also means there is more fluid to build up in the feet. 

Swelling in the feet may also be worse when:

  • The weather is hot or humid.
  • You spend long hours standing.
  • You wear tight clothing, jewelry, or shoes.

When Does Swelling Begin During Pregnancy?

It’s most common for swelling to develop later in pregnancy, usually during the third trimester (weeks 29–40, or months seven through nine). However, it can start around the fifth month or sooner in some cases. It could even start earlier in pregnancy for people who live in hot climates or spend long hours standing. 

Often, the swelling will continue until after you give birth. The extra fluid usually goes away within a few days or weeks after delivering your baby. 

When to See a Doctor

Usually, swollen feet are a normal part of pregnancy and, while uncomfortable, it isn’t something to worry about. Most of the time, it’s just a sign of your progressing pregnancy. 

Still, sometimes swelling can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as:

  • Preeclampsia: This is a potentially serious pregnancy complication, with signs and symptoms of high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling in the hands and feet.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): If you have more swelling in one leg (sometimes accompanied by redness, warmth, or a heavy ache in that leg), you could have DVT. DVT is a blood clot in the deep veins, usually in the legs. It’s not common during pregnancy. Still, people are up to 5 times more likely to develop DVT when pregnant.

Contact your healthcare provider immediately or get emergency medical treatment if you notice:

  • Sudden swelling in your feet, hands, or face
  • Significantly worse swelling
  • Changes in vision
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Headache
  • Problems breathing
  • Uneven swelling or worse swelling in one leg

If you aren’t sure whether your swelling is normal or if you have any questions, it’s best to talk with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s just normal swelling and nothing to worry about. 

Ways to Ease Swollen Feet During Pregnancy

While swollen feet during pregnancy are normal, it doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable and bothersome. Here are some ways to ease swollen feet during pregnancy:

  • Eat less salt: Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to hold onto more fluid.
  • Eat more potassium-containing foods: Not getting enough potassium in the diet may make swelling worse. Many foods contain potassium, including fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, fruits like bananas and oranges, and dried beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and dairy products.
  • Drink fewer caffeinated beverages: While some caffeine can be safe during pregnancy, it acts as a diuretic in removing water from the body. Even though that seems like a good thing, it could cause your body to hold on to more fluid to prevent losing too much fluid.
  • Stay hydrated: When you’re dehydrated, your body retains fluid to make up for the lack of water. Even though it may make you urinate more, drinking more water to stay hydrated may help relieve some swelling. 
  • Elevate your feet: Propping your feet up on pillows when sleeping or sitting helps improve circulation by using gravity to help fluid flow.
  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods: Staying on your feet or sitting for too long may increase swelling. Try adjusting positions often to keep circulation moving throughout the day.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing: Clothing that pinches around the ankles or wrists may make swelling worse. Try to wear loose, comfortable clothing. 
  • Stay cool: Hot, humid weather can make swelling worse. Try to stay in air-conditioned rooms  to keep cool.
  • Wear compression stockings: Compression stockings may help blood flow and prevent fluid buildup in the legs. 
  • Go for a walk: Going for a few five- or 10-minute walks throughout the day may help improve circulation to help prevent fluid retention.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: Wearing comfortable shoes with good support that aren’t too snug may help keep your feet more comfortable.
  • Get a massage: Whether your partner wants to get involved or you schedule a prenatal massage, massages can help improve circulation, which may reduce swelling

Summary

Swollen feet or edema is common during pregnancy. It’s often caused by hormonal and fluid changes. It’s more common to experience swelling during the third trimester, but it may start around the fifth month. Contact your healthcare provider if the swelling suddenly appears or drastically changes.

You may be able to reduce swelling in the feet during pregnancy by going for short walks, avoiding long hours sitting or standing, eating foods with potassium, taking in less sodium, and staying cool. 

A Word From Verywell

Having swollen feet during pregnancy is normal and usually nothing to be concerned about, even though it is uncomfortable and bothersome. If the swelling concerns you or develops suddenly, talk with your healthcare provider. They can help make sure there isn’t anything more serious going on and help you manage the discomfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does swollen feet during pregnancy mean preeclampsia?

    Getting swollen feet during pregnancy is usually nothing to worry about. It’s common for most people to experience swelling, usually during the third trimester. In some cases, swollen feet can be a sign of preeclampsia. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience other symptoms like dizziness, confusion, vision changes, or severe headache.

  • Should you massage swollen feet during pregnancy?

    Massaging swollen feet during pregnancy may boost blood flow and circulation, which may help decrease swelling and discomfort.

Was this page helpful?
3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Soma-Pillay P, Catherine NP, Tolppanen H, Mebazaa A, Tolppanen H, Mebazaa A. Physiological changes in pregnancy. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2016;27(2):89-94. doi:10.5830/CVJA-2016-021

  2. Rana S, Lemoine E, Granger JP, Karumanchi SA. Preeclampsia: pathophysiology, challenges, and perspectives. Circ Res. 2019;124(7):1094-1112. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.313276

  3. Devis P, Knuttinen MG. Deep venous thrombosis in pregnancy: incidence, pathogenesis and endovascular management. Cardiovasc Diagn Ther. 2017;7(Suppl 3):S309-S319. doi:10.21037/cdt.2017.10.08