One of the most common and persistent pregnancy symptoms is “the swell”. That feeling of being regularly bloated, uncomfortable, and a bit puffy around your tum, your feet, your ankles, your hands, your face… pretty much everywhere. It all comes down to your body holding extra fluid, often referred to as water weight, during pregnancy. The key function of the increased fluids in your body is to soften and cushion everything, helping to reduce pain and make room for a growing baby – all good things! While it’s probably not the least pleasant of the pregnancy symptoms (hello, morning sickness), it can be a pain when you just can’t find relief. But you don’t need us to tell you that. What we can share with you are our top 5 tips for managing swelling and finding relief when you need it most. So here they are!
1. Don’t stay in one position for too long. Long periods of being in the same position – especially sitting or standing – can definitely exacerbate swelling. Sitting creates bends and pinches that make it difficult for your lymphatic system to keep fluids moving through your body, and standing for a long time means all that fluid in your lower legs has to fight against gravity to move up and out (hello puffy feet!). If you have a job that requires you to either be at a desk for the full day, set a reminder on your phone every hour to get up and move around for 5-10 minutes. If you’re on your feet a lot, do the same thing, but take those 5-10 minutes as a break where you can sit down and put your feet up if possible.
Bonus tip: At the end of a long day a bit of light arm stretching and spending a few minutes in the legs up the wall yoga pose can help reduce swelling.
2. Sleep on your left side. Left side sleeping in pregnancy is widely recommended, and it happens to be great for keeping swelling at bay as well. Basically, it keeps your kidneys humming along, which helps to eliminate waste, and it helps your circulatory and lymphatic systems keep pumping with no problems.
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to employ multiple body pillows in a quest to get comfortable on your left side – whatever works for you, make it happen! You may also find it helpful to lie down on your right side when you go to bed and then switch to your left side before falling asleep, making it more likely for you to stay in that position through the night.
3. Get a natural lymphatic massage by hitting the pool. When you’re submerged in water there is an even pressure on your whole body, and as you swim through the water, that moving pressure helps to push fluids from your tissues (which is what causes the swelling feeling) back into your veins and through your kidneys so you can excrete it.
Bonus tip: While water workouts are great because you get the natural lymphatic massage from the water environment, any type of regular exercise (walking, jogging, spinning, resistance workouts, Pilates, you name it!) will help keep swelling down as it encourages increased blood flow, and your contracting muscles will help move fluids out.
4. Book in for an actual lymphatic massage. While a water workout serves dual purposes of lymphatic massage and healthy exercise, sometimes you just need a bit of pampering. A lymphatic massage is a light touch technique that encourages the proper flow of the lymphatic fluid in your body (which includes water, toxins and waste), helping you to feel lighter and detoxified.
Bonus tip: Make sure your massage therapist is trained in prenatal massage techniques and is aware that you are pregnant before booking.
5. Reduce the water weight by drinking more water. Although it may seem counteractive, drinking lots of water (ideally 10 glasses a day) will minimize swelling. When you have excess sodium and waste products in your tissues that’s when water will occupy these areas to help maintain a proper saline balance. By drinking more water you can help flush out that excess sodium and effectively pull the water away from your tissues, so that swelling can subside.
Bonus tip: You can also freeze water into cold compresses for use on your hands, face, breasts, and ankles to provide instant relief from swelling pains.