Swollen Hands During Pregnancy: Causes and Tips

Swollen hands during pregnancy aren't one of the most common conditions. However, we'll tell you all about this condition today.
Swollen Hands During Pregnancy: Causes and Tips

Last update: 26 August, 2022

Although leg swelling is more common, some women may notice that they develop swollen hands during pregnancy. In fact, these are common discomforts that become more evident in the last trimester of pregnancy.

Here, we’ll tell you all about swollen hands during pregnancy. Are you interested? Keep reading!

Changes in the hands during pregnancy

During pregnancy, the body undergoes various circulatory changes, and the hands are no exception. In addition to edema due to fluid accumulation, some other changes can be perceived:

  • Itching and erythema on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet are caused by hormonal disturbances. However, the symptoms tend to disappear on their own after delivery. In the meantime, emollients are a good option to provide relief.
  • Paresthesias. Although not a cause for concern, a tingling sensation in the hands may appear sporadically.
  • Neuralgia. According to a study published in 2021, carpal tunnel syndrome is very common in pregnancy due to the buildup and pressure of fluid around the nerves in the wrist. However, after pregnancy, the symptoms usually disappear spontaneously.

Causes of swollen hands in pregnancy

Gestational edema is usually a common condition in women and becomes more evident as pregnancy progresses. Especially during the summer months.

Although edema of the lower limbs (legs, ankles, and feet) is most common, the hands also tend to swell at some point during pregnancy. According to a study published by Revista terapéutica, the total body fluid that increases is distributed in the extracellular space, and this is what predisposes the mother-to-be to develop edema.

The blood volume increases by 50% to be able to cover all the baby’s needs and guarantee its optimal development. In turn, the presence of fluid contributes to the growth of the fetus and the expansion of the hip joints by the time of delivery.

A woman with edema during pregnancy.
Lower limb edema is the most common of all, especially in the third trimester. However, it can also manifest itself in the hands and face.

Preeclampsia, a dangerous condition

Preeclampsia is a serious complication of pregnancy in which edema is one of the cardinal symptoms, along with those described below:

  • Presence of protein in the urine (proteinuria)
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swelling of the face

Other manifestations have also been described, such as vertigo, blurred vision, abdominal pain, or drowsiness. If any of these symptoms appear, it’s important that you consult a doctor immediately.

Tips to prevent swollen hands in pregnancy

Fluid retention occurs more frequently and intensely when the pregnant woman begins her third month of pregnancy. To prevent it, you can implement some of the measures that we’ll share with you below.

Correct and sufficient hydration

Swollen hands during pregnancy can become more noticeable in the summer months, due to the excessive heat. Therefore, it’s best to maintain proper hydration at any time of the year.

Although it may seem contradictory, drinking more fluids stimulates renal elimination and reduces water retention in the body.

A varied and controlled diet

A balanced diet is important for a healthy pregnancy and in order to incorporate the necessary nutrients for the baby’s growth. Therefore, it’s best to have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, with a high content of vitamins and minerals, and little presence of ultra-processed and packaged products, because they have a high amount of sodium.

Another cause of swollen hands during pregnancy may be potassium deficiency, so bananas are an excellent recommendation.

Limit the use of accessories on the hands

If your hands become very swollen, it’s best to avoid wearing rings or bracelets, as this can be too dangerous. In fact, it’s common to notice that in the morning, rings are easier to put on, and at night, more difficult to remove.

To avoid swelling of the hands during pregnancy, it’s advisable not to keep them in a downward position and move the fingers to stimulate circulation and reduce edema.

A pregnant woman taking a walk.
Taking at least one walk daily helps to improve venous blood return and limit the development of edema

Daily physical activity

Exercising, whether walking or swimming, is a great habit to get into, even for pregnant women. Keeping the body moving helps venous return and regulating heat in the room improves congestion and fluid accumulation in the lower limbs.

All of these discomforts can be alleviated with cold showers at the end of the day to reduce swelling.

Swollen hands in pregnancy aren’t a common condition

Although fluid retention and swelling aren’t serious conditions, they can be unsightly and annoying. Sometimes they’ll be unavoidable (as they respond to hormonal changes), but at other times, they can be controlled with a few careful measures.

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  • Mohaupt MG. Odeme in der Schwangerschaft–banal? [Edema in pregnancy–trivial?]. Ther Umsch. 2004 Nov;61(11):687-90. German. doi: 10.1024/0040-5930.61.11.687. PMID: 15605462.
  • Rana S, Lemoine E, Granger JP, Karumanchi SA. Preeclampsia: Pathophysiology, Challenges, and Perspectives. Circ Res. 2019 Mar 29;124(7):1094-1112. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.313276. Erratum in: Circ Res. 2020 Jan 3;126(1):e8. PMID: 30920918.
  • Afshar A, Tabrizi A. Pregnancy-related Hand and Wrist Problems. Arch Bone Jt Surg. 2021 May;9(3):345-349. doi: 10.22038/abjs.2020.50995.2531. PMID: 34239963; PMCID: PMC8221449.
  • Danielewicz H, Myszczyszyn G, Dębińska A, Myszkal A, Boznański A, Hirnle L. Dieta durante el embarazo: más que comida. Eur J Pediatra . 2017;176(12):1573-1579. doi:10.1007/s00431-017-3026-5