So, how do you deal with swelling after pregnancy while trying to balance the tremendous responsibilities and joys of motherhood? It turns out that while some swelling is inevitable for most women, there are some potential remedies for swelling after pregnancy that may help alleviate or eliminate this problem.
A clean diet is an important part of a woman's postpartum care. Eating properly can help flush out excess fluids more quickly. As a bonus, a clean, healthy diet can give you the extra energy you need to adjust to your baby's demands. Focus on foods rich in protein, as well as fresh fruit, vegetables and complex carbs. Skip processed foods, as they're often loaded with bloat-inducing sodium [source: Kitzinger]. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, remember to drink plenty of fluids. Drinking more water will signal your body to release some of the excess fluid it's been holding onto, which can help reduce swelling. To make sure you're drinking enough, make it a priority to empty your bladder every four to six hours [source: California Pacific Medical Center].
Moderate exercise and activity can also reduce postpartum swelling by improving circulation and helping you to sweat away excess fluid. Even just taking care of your baby can get your heart pumping, but feel free to add in some easy walking or other light exercise if your doctor approves.
If your legs and ankles are swollen, try elevating your feet above the level of your heart. This improves circulation and reduces the fluid build-up in your lower body [source: Kitzinger]. Don't wear tight clothing or jewelry, as this can restrict blood flow to certain areas and increase swelling. If your doctor has given you the go-ahead, feel free to take a relaxing bath. Even the weight of the bathwater can help reduce swelling [source: Mayo Clinic].
For many women, the immediate concern is relieving pain and swelling at incision sites. Try using ice packs to reduce swelling at the perineum and around C-section incisions. Clean both of these sites as directed by your doctor. Take warm baths to reduce discomfort, and don't apply lotions or vitamin E until the area has begun to heal [source: Davis].
While some swelling after pregnancy is normal, certain types of swelling are a sign of danger and shouldn't be ignored. Swelling and pain in only one leg can indicate a severe blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) [source: Curtis and Schuler]. Sudden or severe swelling at incision sites can indicate an infection or other problem. Immediately consult your doctor if you suspect DVT, or if you notice swelling accompanied by redness, discharge or odor at any delivery-related incision sites [source: California Pacific Medical Center].
Another sign to watch for is the onset of preeclampsia. While many pregnant women know to look out for this disorder during pregnancy, few realize that preeclampsia can occur up to four weeks after delivery [source: Norton]. Look for sudden, excessive swelling in the face or hands, and consult your doctor immediately if you notice these warning signs [source: Cedars-Sinai]. Avoid vitamin supplements, except those prescribed by your doctor, as they can increase your risk for preeclampsia during this period [source: Norton].
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Baby Partner. "Edema(Water Retention)." 2005. (March 10, 2010).http://www.babypartner.com/guides/health-and-fitness/common-complaints/edema.php
- California Pacific Medical Center. "The New Mother: Physical Changes." 2009. (March 10, 2010).http://www.cpmc.org/services/pregnancy/information/mother-changes.html
- Cedars-Sinai. "Preeclampsia and Eclampsia." 2008. (March 10, 2010).http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/5828.html
- Curtis, Glade M.D. and Schuler, Judith M.S."Your Pregnancy: Week by Week." Del Capo Press, Philadelphia. 2008.
- Davis, Elizabeth. Heart and Hands: A Midwife's Guide to Pregnancy and Birth. Celestial Arts, Berkeley. 1997.
- Harms, Roger W., M.D.. "Pregnancy Week by Week." Mayo Clinic. Aug. 12, 2009. (March 10, 2010). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/swelling-during-pregnancy/AN01194
- Kitzinger, Sheila. The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth. Random House, New York. 1996.
- Norton, Kim M. "The Dangers of Preeclampsia." For the Record. Vol. 19, Num. 3, P. 28. Feb. 19, 2007. (March 10, 2010). http://www.fortherecordmag.com/archives/ftr_02052007p28.shtml
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation. "Breast Engorgement in the First Week Postpartum." 2010. (March 10, 2010).http://www.pamf.org/children/newborns/feeding/engorgement.html
- Parents.com. "Post-Pregnancy Body Changes." Date Unknown. (March 10, 2010).http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/postpartum/post-pregnancy-body-changes/?page=1