Pitting Edema During Pregnancy

The swelling of body parts on account of fluid retention is referred to as edema. Edema is not a disease per se; it is basically an indication of some other underlying problem or condition. There are two primary types of edema; pitting edema and non pitting edema. A large number of women experience pitting edema during pregnancy.

So what then is pitting edema? If a small indentation or dimple is left on the swollen area, after the application of pressure, the condition is termed as pitting edema Pitting edema in pregnancy is mainly seen on the lower extremities, that is the legs and feet. However, it can affect other parts of the body as well, such as the hands, arms, fingers and so on.


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Pitting edema refers to a medical condition that causes fluids to buildup in your extremities. This fluid buildup is so severe that if you push your extremity with your finger, the flesh will remain depressed for a while, before it bounces back into place. Pitted edema is a symptom for several major health conditions, which is why you should never leave it unchecked. Suffering from edema is very common during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters. Studies indicate that up to 80% of all pregnant women experience pitting or non pitting edema during pregnancy. The swelling usually affects the feet and the ankles of pregnant women. Your health care provider will also tell you that it is not uncommon for women to suffer from pitting edema in ankles during pregnancy. However, you may have cause for concern, in case pitting edema in pregnancy is accompanied by any of these:

  • A rise in blood pressure
  • Protein in the urine
  • Reduction in the movements of the baby
  • Severe headaches or blurred vision
  • Heartburn, which does not improve in spite of taking antacid

In case you notice any of these symptoms along with pitted edema in pregnancy, you need to consult your health care provider immediately.

What are the causes of pitting edema during pregnancy?

Pitting edema during the third trimester of pregnancy usually occurs in case of water retention. There are several hormonal changes that take place in your body and this could be one of the causes of pitting edema during pregnancy. Given below are some of the other common causes of severe or light pitting edema during pregnancy:

  • As your baby grows and develops during the course of pregnancy, the expansion of the uterus can put a lot of pressure on the vena cava, which is a major blood vessel that performs the important function of returning blood from the legs to the heart. This additional pressure could cause your legs to swell.
  • Water retention and swelling of the legs usually takes place in people who are suffering from high blood pressure. Since this condition can be a major cause for concern in pregnancy, you need to get your blood pressure checked on a regular basis, especially in case you notice swelling in your legs.
  • The excess intake of salt could cause your legs to swell up, because of water retention. In case you notice the problem of edema during pregnancy, it is important for you to look at your diet and incorporate a few changes, if necessary. Make sure that you cut down of the consumption of foods that are high in salt, such as junk food, processed meat, condiments, salty snacks, and so on.

It is absolutely essential to determine what factors could have caused pitting edema in pregnancy, as some of the causes may need to be treated immediately. This is especially applicable in case of high blood pressure. If your blood pressure continues to climb, it could lead to a condition known as pre-eclampsia, which is a life-threatening complication.

There are several factors that can aggravate edema, even though they don’t directly cause it. It has been seen that the swelling in the ankles and feet are usually worse at the end of long and tiring the day, especially of you have been standing on your feet. The warm weather could also cause the swelling to worsen considerably.

Conditions for Pitting Edema During Pregnancy

During a pregnancy, the body requires an additional amount of fluid in order to meet the baby’s requirements and to increase amniotic fluid and blood circulation. Thus, irrespective of whether one increases or reduces their fluid intake, the body will still continue to retain water, so as to meet these requirements. Apart from this, gravity, poor blood circulation and hormonal changes can also lead to this condition during a pregnancy. Although swelling is normal during a pregnancy, an excessive amount of swelling may be the indication of a serious condition known as preeclampsia.

If one experiences sudden and or severe swelling in the lower extremities or the face, then these symptoms again are indicative of preeclampsia. Additionally, one needs to be particularly concerned if the swelling is accompanied by headaches and high blood pressure. Consulting a physician is highly recommended in this situation, in order to avoid any kind of complications.

How to get rid of pitting edema?

Undergoing treatment for any condition in pregnancy could be a major challenge, because of the adverse effects that medication could have on your baby and your pregnancy. Fortunately, most women do not need to go through treatment for pitting edema in pregnancy, as the condition is usually temporary and will disappear after the baby is born. The swelling in your extremities will also reduce once you address the factors that are causing it. However, there are several pregnancy edema remedies that you can also try. Do bear in mind that these remedies only help to reduce the swelling and discomfort; they do not address the causes for pitting edema like hypertension.

  • Sit with your feet elevated for as long as possible. Make sure that you do this at least twice a day, for 20 minutes each
  • Drink a lot of water, to ensure that your body remains hydrated
  • Engage in some form of exercise for around half an hour each day, especially walking or swimming. Do get a doctor’s approval before you start exercising.
  • Follow a healthy diet, which is high in vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs and other essential nutrients. Stay away from junk food, fried food, processed food, as they are high in fat, calories and sodium
  • Soak your feet in some warm water, to relieve the pressure on the blood vessels. A foot massage may also be helpful, but make sure that it is administered by a professional masseuse, who is well aware of your condition.

In case you are suffering from pitting edema, it is quite likely for the condition to last for a few days after childbirth. This means that you will have pitting edema during labor too, but it should not cause any major complications, as long as your blood pressure is normal. Nevertheless, do make sure that your doctor monitors the symptoms of this condition carefully.

Remedies for Pitting Edema During Pregnancy

Unfortunately, pitting edema and pregnancy go hand in hand and there is not much that one can do to get rid of the swelling. However, here are a few tips that can help in reducing it t some extent. First and foremost, avoid sitting or standing in one place for long. If in case you have to, then take time out and walk around for a bit, this will help in improving circulation. Try mild and light exercises, as they will also improve circulation. Wear loose fitting clothing; tight clothes constrict blood flow. Sleeping on the left side is also known to help. It will improve blood flow to your legs, as well as to the uterus. Finally, drink plenty of water and keep the body well hydrated at all times, as otherwise one may tend to get constipated.

Pitting Edema During Pregnancy
Pitting Edema During Pregnancy
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