Swollen ankles in pregnancy

Swollen ankles often happen in pregnancy. Here’s why they swell, what you can do about it and signs your ankles are giving you about pre-eclampsia

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Swollen ankles, in the majority of pregnancies, are one of many slight discomforts pregnancy brings 😩😩😩

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We reckon Hollywood star Claire Danes knows just what that feels like. Thepregnant Homeland actress was spotted on a long summer walk in New York City, and seemed to be experiencing some noticeable swelling in her ankles.

Claire’s not the only woman to get this pregnancy symptom, though, far from it. It’s very common, and thankfully, it’s really nothing to worry about.

However, in less-common cases, swollen ankles could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. But don’t panic! In this piece, we’ll explain when it’s time to tell your GP.

Here’s what you need to know about swollen ankles – and when it’s time to see your doctor… 

Why do ankles swell in pregnancy?

Known as ‘oedema’ in medical speak, swelling is due to excess fluid building up, causing your ankles or legs to seem inflated.

Usually, swollen ankles are just a byproduct of the extra baby weight and fluid retention that comes with pregnancy.

Fortunately, it generally looks worse than it is and 75% of mums-to-be will suffer from it at some point. It’s also worth remembering that it can stick around after birth, though it should ease on its own.

As it’s nowhere near as sore as it looks, many women don’t notice they have it until they sit down at the end of the day, put their feet up and see their Nora Batty ankles staring back at them!

How can I stop my ankles swelling?

Your ankles are more likely to puff up if you’ve spent a long time on your feet. Sometimes, that’s unavoidable, but there are a few things you can do to reduce it…

  • Put your feet up and rest. When seated, make sure you and your bump are supported well so you don’t get a stiff back and raise your feet on a pillow or footrest.
  • Keep up your fluids. This is advisable generally in pregnancy but drinking water also helps flush your system through and can actually help to guard against water retention. (Drink it steadily through the day rather than over-filling in one sitting.)
  • Eat less salt. This can make your body retain water so try and avoid it were possible.
  • Try to avoid tight-fitting shoes and hosiery. Some women find pregnancy support tights may actually help to keep the swelling at bay but discuss this with your doctor or midwife. And tempting as they may be Uggs and high heels are a big no-no.
  • Exercise and stretch. Keeping active in pregnancy can help prevent oedema ocurring. Moderate regular exercises that are safe in pregnancy include walking and swimming. Stretching your legs and feet can also help so activities such as pregnancy yoga and pilates can make a difference too.

When to see your doctor

Sometimes, swollen ankles can be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Don’t worry yourself too much, though, as you can easily be tested for this, to put your mind at ease.

Generally, guidance says: if the swelling doesn’t go down overnight or after a few hours and is affecting your hands, face or other parts of your body, you should call your midwife or doctor.

Again, it might just be swelling due to heat, but they can look into it further, to reassure you that it’s not more serious. 

Have your say

Did you have swollen ankles during pregnancy? How did you keep swelling at bay? Let us know in the comments below…

Image: Backgrid

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