You expected to cradle your infant in your arms following birth. But you
may not have anticipated being carrying a bunch of extra fluid all over
your body as well, particularly your feet.
Swelling feet after giving birth is natural and typical in the postpartum
period. Here's what you need to learn about postpartum foot swelling.
Having a baby will affect everything from shoe size and arch height to gait
and even the chance of nagging foot problems, including plantar fasciitis
and swelling (thanks to the extra weight plus a fresh mix of hormones
running into the body!).
Postpartum swelling is most common in the legs, feet, and ankles. Some new
mothers' hands and bodies swell out as well. If you're highly swollen, your
skin can appear stretched or shiny.
You thought those “cankles” from your third trimester of pregnancy would
disappear after delivery!
Swelling is persistent in the postpartum time. During the first
postpartum week, it usually gets worse. It does, however,
steadily improve over time.
Why does this happen?
The swollen postpartum feet you're sporting is caused by one or more of the
Pregnancy fluids that have accumulated over the last nine
months. During pregnancy, your body transports more fluids—in
fact, your blood volume doubles.
Pushing during labor. Pushing through delivery sends
this water to the different body parts. As a result, you can notice that
your feet, arms, and legs are extra puffy.
You got extra fluid during labor. If you got an epidural
during labor, you were given IV fluids to keep your blood pressure from
dropping. If you had a C-section, you would have required IV fluids to get
you through the procedure. The extra fluid does not go anywhere
Being inactive. The fact that you aren't moving around
much after childbirth (especially if you had a C-section) makes it harder
for your body to eliminate fluid.
Hormones. Your progesterone levels rose during
pregnancy. One of the consequences of the increased progesterone is
increased water accumulation, which causes swelling during pregnancy and
continues to be a problem after the baby is born.
So, why be proactive?
Though you cannot prevent postpartum edema, you can reduce its severity.
This can help your feet and legs become less sore and painful.
Here's what you can do to lessen the swelling.
Avoid standing for extended periods. If you must be on
your feet, continue to take regular breaks with your feet elevated to
increase circulation. Remember not to cross your legs while you're sitting.
It reduces blood supply.
Get a massage. Foot and leg massage is a great way to
ease postpartum swelling if you do not experience pain. It is good for
circulation and cuts off excess fluid build-up. Have your partner help or
get a massage therapist.
Put on comfortable shoes. Wear footwear that isn't too
tight on your feet. If possible, avoid wearing high heels. Clothing that is
too restrictive around the wrists and ankles should be avoided. Instead,
use clothes with a looser fit to prevent straining the circulation.
Drink plenty of water. It might sound counterintuitive,
but drinking plenty of water will signal the body to clear out the retained
fluids. Along with this, make sure you urinate enough to prevent fluids
from lasting longer than required.
You should avoid salty and artificial foods because they
can cause fluid accumulation, which is the reverse of what you want.
Light exercise, such as walking, is recommended. A
slight increase in your heart rate will allow your body to pump blood more
efficiently, preventing fluid from accumulating in one area and swelling
Postpartum swelling is a cause for alarm in a few cases. If the swelling
becomes worse on one side or discomfort, you might have a severe problem
such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A DVT is a blood clot that generally
occurs in the leg, but it can split off and migrate to the heart, resulting
in a possibly fatal pulmonary embolism. If you think you have a DVT, call
your doctor right away.
Swelling is common in postpartum women, particularly in their legs and
feet. Although it is temporary it can be uncomfortable and painful. Use the
tips above to be proactive to decrease the amount of swelling!
Reach out to MaternalWell text support for any questions.