Swollen legs and feet are an uncomfortable and common pregnancy symptom for many women.  

Oedema (the medical term for swelling) often appears in the later months of pregnancy and can occur for several reasons. Namely, during pregnancy you naturally produce and store more fluid in your body. Plus, as your baby grows, the enlarged uterus puts pressure on everything around it, included veins that pump blood back to your heart. As a result, puffiness and swelling in your lower limbs can, and often does, occur.

In some cases, swelling may indicate a more serious condition and should be assessed immediately. Signs that you should seek further assistance include: sudden or severe swelling, pain and tenderness (especially radiating up your calf and /or into your groin), swelling that doesn’t go down after rest or that mostly occurs in your face and hands.

‘Healthy’ swelling tends to be mild, coming on at the end of the day or after spending a lot of time on your feet, and occurs mostly in the feet and ankles.

Even though this isn’t a serious health condition it can still be very uncomfortable. Happily, there are a number of simple things you can do that can help manage swollen feet while pregnant.

Elevate your feet

Putting your feet up at the end of the day, or during if you can, will take the pressure off your feet and help with circulation. If you’re heavily pregnant, put a small pillow or rolled up towel underneath your right hip so that you lean more towards your left – this improves circulation by taking the pressure off the inferior vena cava, the large vein that returns blood to your heart from the lower half of your body.

Supportive footwear

This is particularly important if you are on your feet a lot during the day. Compression socks or stockings may also be appropriate, as these will help to prevent blood pooling around the ankles.

Regular exercise

Moving your body daily will help to improve circulation and reduce swelling – this can include yoga, swimming and walking.

Soak your feet

Fill a bucket or foot bath with enough water to cover your feet, up to your ankles. In this water, dissolve ½ – 1 cup Epsom salts and let your feet soak for up to 15 minutes. Even better for your circulation: take your feet out every 3-5 minutes and dunk them in cold water, before returning to the warm bath.


Having someone massage your feet and ankles is not only a wonderful luxury, it’s also highly therapeutic. Ensure they use upward strokes, towards your knees, as this will help to move fluid away from the feet. This is also something you can do for yourself… but much more pleasant if you can convince a partner or friend to do it for you!

Herbal tea

Infusions made from Nettle and Dandelion leaves can be drunk throughout the day (ideally, 1-2 cups) to help with circulation, improve kidney function and fluid balance. You may also be recommended a medicinal extract of these herbs, amongst others, to help with oedema – however, before taking any herbal medicine during pregnancy, it is important to discuss this with a qualified practitioner.

Eat well and stay hydrated

Keep your diet as clean as possible, full of fresh fruit and vegetables, regular serves of protein and plenty of water. You don’t have to avoid salt when your feet and ankles are sometimes swollen – quite the opposite in fact, as salt is an important mineral for fluid balance and insufficient amounts in your diet may contribute to oedema. However, you should steer clear of processed and highly sugared foods, as these have no health benefits and may exacerbate symptoms such as inflammation and swelling.

Image of “feet” from Shutterstock
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  • All great advice. It’s a very unglamorous side to pregnancy.


  • Great tips – thanks for the post


  • Definitely a part of pregnancy I do NOT miss :p


  • Also; absolutely spot on with massage! So good for your feet and so relaxing too!


  • Thanks for sharing this interesting article; it is so important to look after your feet!


  • Came across this article at EXACTLY the right time. One week to go until my bub arrives and my legs are so swollen. Good to have some tips to counteract this pregnancy affect once anything serious has been eliminated.


  • Great tips here especially soaking in hot water & then the cold


  • Soaking my feet & getting a massage sounds amazing HAHA.


  • Great tips and advice, wish I had known about this way back then :)


  • Groan, I had swollen feet every time, not fun. I could often be found lying on the loungeroom floor with my feet up, but the best was the relief from the epson salt soak…. great advice :)


  • Its good to know about these, my wife was very swollen when she was pregnant with the twins


  • my sister has this problem ATM. thankfully i never had it much with my three pregnancies, thanks for this read. i will forward some tips to her


  • I’d have to say that swelling is one of the most annoying aspects of pregnancy. Getting plenty of rest and taking things easy seem to really improve things.


  • Wow, very useful. Am experiencing it right now unfortunately,


  • ohhhhh love a good foot massage when they are swollen


  • I wore compression socks to bed.. and also treated myself to massages!


  • I found that elevating my feet was the only thing that helped. I even put pillows under the foot of the mattress on the bed at night so my feet were higher than my body.


  • swimming,walking and putting up my feet in between help me a lot to avoid swelling of my feet during the entire pregnancy.


  • Hubby said the last time he flew the airline gave out those compression socks for people to wear, he said they felt great. I’ve just recently noticed Target sell them, I’m off to buy some for all of us next week.


  • My shoe size also went up a size after pregnancy. I think it due to your ligaments becoming more lax in pregnancy.


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