Let’s face it, while there are many wonderful aspects to being pregnant…swelling is not one of them!
To understand how prenatal exercise relieves swelling, we first need to understand why swelling is such a problem in pregnancy.
Why do we experience swelling during pregnancy?
There are many hormonal changes that our bodies experience during pregnancy. Most of these changes are focused on supporting the growing baby. Also, as your baby grows, it puts more pressure on your heart and cardiovascular system, which causes fluid to leak out of your veins and creates swelling.
How do we relieve swelling during pregnancy?
First of all, I want to be clear: the kind of swelling that we want to try to relieve through exercise and diet changes is the kind that accumulates slowly over the day, that generally eases up over night, and isn’t accompanied by big changes in blood pressure. If you experience sudden swelling, symptoms of high blood pressure (such as a very painful headache that won’t go away, or vision changes), or you see a big increase in your weight, call your doctor immediately. These are signs of pre-eclampsia, a relatively common pregnancy complication that can have serious implications for you and your baby.
So, to relieve pregnancy related swelling with exercise, there are a number of things you can try:
- Exercise in water is always a great idea, but especially during pregnancy. The pressure of the fluid on your body pushes the lingering fluid in your extremities back into your circulatory system, where it can be properly excreted.
- Walking is always a great exercise that you can do, even if you have no particular history with exercise. Start with 5-10 minutes a day, and add around five minutes every week until you’re walking for about half an hour a day.
- Prenatal Yoga is a great way to get some exercise, move fluid through your body, and strengthen key muscle groups in preparation for labor and birth.
- Work with an experience prenatal trainer, like VixieMama. Getting to spend a few sessions with a personal trainer experienced with the ins and outs of pregnancy is the Cadillac of pregnancy exercise. At VixieMama, I love working with clients who are finding new levels of strength and flexibility during pregnancy.
Some other tips to help with swelling
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat some salty foods, but don’t overload on them. Your body needs some sodium to process water out of your system, but in general, our diets have way more sodium than we need on a day to day basis.
- Wear comfortable clothes that don’t constrict your body or restrict your movement.
- Get your feet up as often as you can throughout the day.
- Don’t spend too long in one position. If you have a job where you sit throughout the day, get up and walk around every hour or so, and if you tend to be on your feet, find time to sit down every hour or so.
- Try and sleep on your left side. This shifts the weight of your uterus off your circulatory system, and lets your body process fluid more freely.
- Don’t cross your legs. Really, you shouldn’t do this when you’re NOT pregnant; it throws off the alignment of your hips and constricts the blood flow to your lower legs. But really don’t cross your legs when you’re pregnant.
- Consider wearing compression stockings as they help improve circulation. Just be sure to put them on first thing in the morning before you get out of bed.
Swelling is often part of pregnancy, but with regular exercise, you can minimize your discomfort while strengthening your body and preparing for labor and birth. If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch with me. VixieFit specializes in clients that are exploring what fitness looks like during pregnancy. Contact me today to find out more about how I can help you enjoy your pregnancy!