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.
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
- Retention of large amounts of fluid in the body
- In very hot weather
- Standing for long periods, which allows fluid
to pool in the lower legs. This is one of the reasons why pregnant
woman are constantly being advised to rest with their feet raised up!
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.
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.
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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