Oedema during Pregnancy

Oedema during Pregnancy

What is it?

Most people suffer from a some swelling of the ankles and feet towards the end of the day, especially in hot weather. During pregnancy this swelling is usually more pronounced and can result in a condition known as oedema.

The word oedema means swelling, and the vast majority of women suffer from swelling of the ankles and feet at some stage during their pregnancy with no cause for alarm. However, it is one of the classic signs of the potentially serious condition known as pre-eclampsia, and therefore all cases of oedema have to be taken seriously in pregnancy.

How is it recognised?

The major difference between oedema and ordinary swelling of the ankles and feet is its 'pitting' nature. This basically means that if pressure is applied to an area of oedema with the finger or thumb for 20-30 seconds and then removed, the area being compressed will have a 'pit' or hollow in it which can be both seen and felt easily. Oedema will be obvious both to the sufferer and to those around her as it usually manifests itself as an unnatural swelling of the ankles and feet, so much so that it may be impossible to even fit into a pair of shoes.

Oedema of the ankles can happen for a number of reasons:

What is the treatment?

Most cases of swelling during pregnancy are mild and require no more treatment than plenty of rest at night, preferably with the feet raised. However, severe oedema may not only result in considerable pain and discomfort in the lower leg and ankle, but it may also make the wearing of any type of shoes virtually impossible.

Is oedema dangerous?

Oedema, in itself, is not regarded as being dangerous, but it does constitute an abnormality of pregnancy and therefore should be carefully monitored. If oedema is present along with high blood pressure it may indicate the presence of pre-eclampsia and the patient will be admitted to hospital for observation and treatment.

Does oedema disappear after delivery?

The generalised swelling which is associated with pregnancy almost always disappears shortly after delivery. A great deal of the fluids which are retained in the body during pregnancy are lost after childbirth, so most women are usually pleasantly surprised to find that the swelling of their hands, ankles, feet, neck and face (which is a feature of almost every pregnancy, to a greater or lesser degree) is gone within a matter of days.

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