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Can Pregnant Women Do Anything to Reduce or Prevent Swollen Ankles?

I already feel uncomfortable and self-conscious as my pregnancy progresses, but now my ankles are the size of my knees! Why does this happen and what can I do about it?
Sonya

Those swollen ankles are a normal, though frustrating, woe for many expectant women. During pregnancy, the extra fluid in the body and the pressure from the growing uterus can cause swelling (or "edema") in the ankles and feet. The swelling tends to get worse as the due date nears, particularly near the end of the day and during hotter weather.

Although sudden swelling in the face or hands may be a sign of a condition known as preeclampsia, mild swelling of the ankles and feet is usually no cause for concern.

To help reduce and/or prevent those annoying swollen ankles, try these simple steps:

  • Avoid standing for long periods.
  • Prop up your feet when sitting and avoid crossing your legs.
  • Stretch frequently when sitting for long periods.
  • Lie on your left side when sleeping.
  • Put maternity support stockings (that go to your waist) on before getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Swim or stand in a pool up to your neck.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Try to stay cool in humid or hot weather.

Call your health care provider if you notice swelling of your face, around your eyes, or more than mild swelling of the hands. Also let your doctor know right away if you have sudden swelling anywhere or if one leg is more swollen than the other.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: August 2009

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