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Cynthia FlynnAnkles and Feet Swelling in Second Trimester
by Cynthia Flynn, CNM, Ph.D.

Q. I'm in my second trimester. My ankles and feet are swelling. What can I do about this?

A. For most women, swelling of the feet and ankles are a "normal" complication of pregnancy. Many times problems with swelling can be solved by a very simple method: increasing fluid intake, especially water, as dehydration is often the culprit. Swelling tends to be more common in hot weather.

The second most common cause of swelling is diet. A diet history of women with swelling problems often shows fewer than three servings of protein every day or fewer than three servings of dairy, another source of protein. Sometimes just increasing protein solves the problem.

Some tips for reducing swelling in the feet and ankles include raising the feet above the level of the heart. Some times I suggest laying on the sofa with your feet up on the end so the water can drain to your kidneys where it can be properly disposed of! Sometimes a bath with epsom salts will help, too. Of course, knee-high socks and hose are not recommended--they cut off the return of the water to the kidney.

As long as the swelling is only in the feet and ankles, it is not usually a sign of a serious medical problem. However, when combined with other symptoms, such as a bad headache that won't go away with Tylenol, rest, eating and drinking; high blood pressure; pain in the upper abdomen; spilling protein in the urine; or bloodwork that is not normal, then swelling may be an early sign of a more serious condition. Any swelling should be reported to your caregiver. Your caregiver will decide whether further testing is needed.

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