Especially in the later stages of your pregnancy, you might notice swelling in many of your ligaments and joints. This swelling can be inconvenient, uncomfortable, and even painful in some cases. Many women experience most of the swelling in their lower limbs, and this condition is known as peripheral edema. The swelling is caused by water retention under the skin, which is especially common soon before labor. Eight out of every ten pregnant women will experience swelling at some point during their pregnancy, so you’re certainly not alone if it has been an issue for you. Usually, it is especially uncomfortable after physical activity, such as walking. To relieve the pressure in their lower limbs, many women put their feet up. However, there might be an even more effective method to alleviate the swelling.

According to the results of a recent study, water immersion is effective in relieving the pressure of edema, especially in the feet. Water immersion is simply the process of completely submerging your body into water. This can be done in a pool, a lake, the ocean, or even a bathtub. In the study, women with swelling were either immersed in water or were treated with elevation of the legs. The women who were submerged in water had significantly reduced swelling in their feet than those who elevated their legs. However, those who elevated their feet on land still did have some relief, so this method of treatment should not be completely disregarded.

Water immersion works to reduce swelling by allowing the body to shed excess water that collects under the skin through the kidneys. Obviously, you will not always have access to a body of water, so there are other everyday ways you should try to prevent the discomfort associated with edema. Make sure you avoid any socks with tight elastic bands at the top, and always wear comfortable shoes. Even if you are not experiencing swelling in your feet when you are relaxing, put your feet up anyway to prevent its onset. Peripheral edema during pregnancy is extremely common, and if you’re looking for relief, you should try all of the different solutions to find which works best for you. If your swelling is accompanied by other unusual symptoms and is not restricted to your arms and legs, contact your health care provider immediately as it could be a sign of a more serious problem.

Source: Jean M Irion et al: Water Immersion to Reduce Peripheral Edema in Pregnancy. Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy Volume 35 Issue 2 pp. 46-49 August 2011

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