10 Home Remedies to Relieve Leg Swelling in Pregnancy

While leg swelling in pregnancy is usually normal, it can be uncomfortable. We tell you how to prevent it in the following article.
10 Home Remedies to Relieve Leg Swelling in Pregnancy

Last update: 10 November, 2021

Leg swelling in pregnancy is a very common symptom. Its prevalence is close to 80% at this stage and is considered normal, as long as it’s not associated with other signs of pre-eclampsia.

We know that it can be a rather uncomfortable gestational change, which is why we’ve selected some home remedies to help you alleviate the discomfort.

Why does leg swelling occur during pregnancy?

One of the main causes of leg and foot edema during pregnancy is a growing uterus.

As the baby increases in size, this organ puts pressure on the pelvic veins and the inferior vena cava. This produces a slowdown in the return of blood from the lower limbs to the heart and favors the accumulation of fluid in the subcutaneous tissues.

The swelling that usually appears during the third trimester of pregnancy is called physiological edema.

In addition to the gravid uterus, there are other factors that are linked to lower limb edema and are the following:

  • Insufficient fluid intake
  • Staying in a standing position for long hours
  • Excess caffeine
  • Dietary imbalances

Leg swelling in pregnant women can cause various discomforts, such as pain, stiff ankles, or difficulty walking.

A woman sitting in bed rubbing her legs.

You may be interested: The 10 Strangest Symptoms of Pregnancy

Home remedies to relieve leg swelling in pregnancy

As we mentioned at the beginning, lower limb edema is one of the frequent manifestations of pregnancy. But there are some measures to prevent its appearance. Take note!

1. Reduce your sodium intake

One of the main indications to reduce leg swelling during pregnancy is to limit your salt intake, as this mineral stimulates fluid retention.

The most prominent recommendations from the American Pregnancy Association include the following: Avoid processed or canned foods; don’t put salt on your food when you sit down to eat; and replace this seasoning with some herbs, such as oregano, thyme, or rosemary.

2. Limit caffeine intake

While consuming caffeine during pregnancy isn’t harmful, excess amounts are. Excessive consumption can be harmful to the baby and promote swelling of the legs.

In addition, caffeine stimulates diuresis and generates in the body the need to retain fluid in order to compensate for this loss.

3. Increase the intake of foods that are rich in potassium

Potassium helps the body balance the amount of fluids. Therefore, consuming less than recommended can worsen leg swelling during pregnancy.

There are good sources of potassium in the diet, such as the foods listed below:

  • Spinach
  • Banana
  • Sweet potatoes with skin
  • Potatoes with skin
  • Yogurt
  • Lentils

4. Drink more fluids

When the body doesn’t receive a sufficient amount of fluids, it tends to retain what little there is to try to compensate for the imbalance. Therefore, drinking water counteracts the swelling of the legs.

Ideally, you should ensure an average intake of 50 ounces of fluids per day to promote the work of the kidneys and eliminate toxins through urine.

5. Wear loose and comfortable clothing

All those clothes that are tight at the waist, wrists, and ankles can make swelling worse. This is because they limit the circulation of blood through the large veins.

For this reason, pregnant women should wear comfortable and loose clothing, such as loose dresses, pullovers, and jogging pants.

6. Elevate your feet and rest

Standing or sitting all the time hinders proper blood circulation in pregnant women. Consequently, elevating the legs for a few moments, especially towards the end of the day, can help drain all the fluid retained in them.

7. Wear compression stockings

Compression stockings are a very useful strategy for the treatment and prevention of leg swelling in pregnancy. These garments gently compress the lower limbs, from the feet upwards, which helps improve blood circulation.

Some studies published in the Lymphatic Research and Biology conclude that compression therapy with rest stockings can be beneficial in preventing edema.

8. Walk frequently

Just a few minutes of walking several times a day can help improve the appearance of leg swelling in pregnancy.

Walking is one of the most recommended physical exercises during this stage. It’s important to choose comfortable and appropriate footwear, not only to prevent edema but also to avoid back and hip problems.

9. Modify the inclination of your bed

Experts recommend that you tilt your bed and slightly raise the lower part, where the feet go. You can also support your legs on some cushions, although this is usually more uncomfortable.

In general, keeping your feet above the level of the bed by about 20cm will suffice so that they’re located higher than the heart, which promotes natural drainage.

A pregnant woman reading in bed with her legs up.

10. Take cold showers

Showering every day and finishing hygiene with a few jets of cold water on the legs helps to stimulate blood circulation.

You can even apply cold effect creams and perform circular and upward massages from the ankles to the thighs.

Leg swelling in pregnancy is physiological

Leg swelling in pregnancy is an expected change during this period. In fact, it’s a sign of all the work your body does to create a new life.

In general, this isn’t usually serious but it’s annoying and unsightly. For this reason, prioritize these strategies to help your body drain fluid-retaining tissues every day.

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  • Ochalek K, Pacyga K, Curyło M, Frydrych-Szymonik A, Szygula Z. Risk Factors Related to Lower Limb Edema, Compression, and Physical Activity During Pregnancy: A Retrospective Study. Lymphat Res Biol. 2017 Jun;15(2):166-171. doi: 10.1089/lrb.2016.0038. Epub 2017 Mar 27. PMID: 28346850.
  • Ponnapula P, Boberg JS. Lower extremity changes experienced during pregnancy. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2010 Sep-Oct;49(5):452-8. doi: 10.1053/j.jfas.2010.06.018. PMID: 20797587.
  • Swelling during Pregnancy. [Internet] Disponible: https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/swelling-during-pregnancy/