Written by Tara Lock, director of *Chilly Towel***
During pregnancy, often it's not just your belly that's swelling. You may find your feet, ankles, legs, fingers, face and lower back become swollen, particularly in the last few months of pregnancy. It's natural to want to find relief, particularly in the heat.
Swelling in pregnancy is very common and about half of all women experience it. The main reasons why women experience swelling while pregnant is due to changing hormones, the body retaining extra fluid (and often producing about 50 percent more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of a developing baby!), and a growing uterus impacting the return of blood to the heart.
Oftentimes, severe swelling can become painful and make your skin tender. You may not be able to stop parts of your body from swelling, but you may be able to reduce the severity and find some comfort.
There are things you can do to help you stay comfortable when pregnancy swelling becomes a part of your life.
Pregnancy swelling is common, particularly late in pregnancy. Image: Getty.
Increase your blood flow
Wear comfortable shoes and put your feet up above your hips as much as you can. Avoid standing for long periods without moving or crossing your legs, which can restrict your blood flow. Try to exercise regularly by walking or swimming. Immersion in water for 20 minutes daily can help decrease swelling.
Bonus tip: sleep on your left side, which will help blood return to the heart!
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Avoid too much salt
Sodium causes your body to hold onto more fluid. Reduce how much salt, sugar and fat you consume. Cutting out pre-packaged, highly processed goods is a good start, as they are usually high in all three. This means no chips, lunch meats, canned foods, carbs and caffeine.
Consume foods that are natural diuretics
Foods that increase excretion of fluids through the kidneys are key. This includes asparagus, celery, artichoke, carrot, watermelon, cucumber, tomato, parsley, eggplant, cranberry juice, cabbage, apple cider vinegar, ginger, brussel spout and lemon. Don't forget to keep hydrated too! This will help your body to hoard less water.
Massaging can return fluid to the general circulation, help blood flow back to the heart, and further aids excretion through the kidneys. Use a massage oil with a few drops of essential oil, as aromatherapy may help with swelling. Cypress oil is good for circulation, lavender and chamomile oil may ease discomfort and make you feel more relaxed.
Tara Lock recommends cool skin therapy as a great way to combat pregnancy swelling. Image: Supplied.
Cool skin therapy
For added benefit, use a cooling massage roller like the Chilly Roll to give your body the 'cold treatment'. A cooling massage roller is a self-massage applicator that chills down to a cool temperature, which can help reduce skin puffiness and swelling. Simply place it in the freezer for 3 hours, then gently massage onto areas of your skin, applying long and short strokes to the swollen areas of the body. The movement stimulates microcirculation of the soft tissue, which increases blood flow and alleviates pain and inflammation.
Because our bodies react to the dip in temperature, the coolness helps to increase blood circulation and reduce swelling. The chilled feeling is soothing on the skin, and very relaxing!