MANAGING OEDEMA in pregnancy

pregnancyandbirth

If there is a time Mother Nature’s generosity is in full bloom, it is during pregnancy. From random acts such as the uncharacteristic kindness of total strangers to extremes such as glowing skin (or a bad case of acne!), the chances of spillover are highly likely and for some women, that may spell a case of oedema or swelling of the limbs. Here are facts about the condition and how to manage it.

Oedema refers to the swelling of limbs due to excessive fluid retention by the body. As the child grows inside your womb, it expands putting pressure on various veins in the pelvis, specifically the vena cava, which is located on the right side of your body. The vena cava is responsible for carrying deoxygenated blood from the legs and back up to the heart. However, due to pressure from the uterus, it becomes difficult for the blood to move to the heart, slowing its pace and thereby causing it to pool around the legs. The collected blood then loses some water to the neighbouring feet and ankle tissues causing the legs to swell.

Is oedema dangerous?

Oedema is notorious during the third trimester but aside from the obvious discomfort of heavier legs to lift, lesser choices in shoes that fit and a slower walking pace, (which is bound to happen anyway as the pregnancy becomes heavier over the trimesters), oedema is a pretty normal occurrence. However, there are few times when oedema can be a sign that so much more is going on in your body such as:

• Pre-eclampsia

While it is normal for your face and neck to start becoming puffy during the second trimester, it is not normal when this happens suddenly hence you should visit your obstetrician. Puffiness accompanied by a headache and blurred vision could be a sign of pre-eclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension. Untreated, the condition can lead to reduced blood supply to the baby which can prove fatal and damage a mother’s liver and other organs causing seizures and may even lead to death.

• Thrombosis and organ trouble

When the swelling on one leg is significantly larger than the other accompanied by pain, then this could be a signal of a blood clot. A clot can travel to other parts of the body such as the lungs causing a blockage that may lead to other numerous complications. If you become breathless, experience tightness of the chest, or coughing blood, then you may be suffering from pulmonary embolism, a lodged blood clot. If not treated in time, the condition could prove fatal.

Managing oedema

Exercise:Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. If you must sit, take breaks to walk to get the fluids moving. Additionally, elevate your legs when seated to help with fluid movement. Take a swim if you can since swimming acts as a good way to get movement with minimal discomfort.

Strategic rest: Sleep on your left side as this will aid the body’s organs such as the kidney to function optimally in its waste elimination duties, hence reducing swelling.

Balanced diet:While it seems counterproductive to prescribe lots of water, the move will help to flush out toxins and waste products, and in turn reduce the swelling.

Comfort: Avoid tight shoes, as they will only serve to cut down on circulation around the feet. Additionally, upgrade your wardrobe as your tummy becomes fuller.

Alternative therapies:Aromatherapy or use of essential oils may help to ease discomfort. Cypress oil is good for circulation while lavender or chamomile oil may make you feel more relaxed. Reflexology, which works on the premise of applying pressure on certain parts of the hands or feet with the belief they correspond to various organs in the body, can also help you to relax. Be sure to ask your doctor before you embark in any form of alternative therapies.

Published in February 2016