After 9 long months of your body going through enormous amounts of changes to grow your tiny human, you finally get to enjoy not only cuddling and caring for your precious little one but you also get to enjoy your body going back to normal.
Although you’re prepared for the discomfort of recovery, you’re definitely ready for normalcy again!
But wait, you get home and notice your feet and your ankles look like sausages. Baby is out, so there’s no more pressure on your veins, which is what you know caused your feet to swell up before delivery.
So what’s the deal now?
This uncomfortable and unattractive swelling you see now is also known as postpartum edema.
Of the many normal things you’ll experience postpartum, the horrible swelling or edema is definitely no exception.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the swelling.
Tell-tale signs of having postpartum edema.
Postpartum edema might look a lot like the swelling you had during pregnancy (if you were one of the lucky ones to experience this too); your feet, toes, ankles, and lower legs can be puffy, shiny, and your skin might feel tight.
You may also notice swelling in your hands, belly, and even your face!
Swelling around your incision, whether from your c-section or your episiotomy, is also very normal. In addition to the swelling, you might notice that you’re in and out of the bathroom peeing all the time.
Your kidneys will be working overtime for a few days. You may also experience sweating, definitely more so than you normally do. If you didn’t feel like a balloon during those last few days of pregnancy, I’m sure you feel that way a little bit after delivery!
What causes your feet to swell up during pregnancy?
Changes from pregnancy. While your little bundle of joy was still in utero, your body was producing lots of progesterone.
This hormone is not only responsible for keeping the uterus relaxed and loosening those joints and ligaments (just to name a few), but it also causes water and sodium retention in the body.
When your body retains extra fluid, it can make you look swollen, and to different extents. As mentioned earlier, your uterus grew, expanded, and put loads of pressure on the veins below it. It can take a little bit of time, naturally, for the “pooling” fluids below to subside after delivery.
Changes from delivery. All that pushing you did during labor was not only pushing your babe out of your body, but it was also pushing blood and fluid to your extremities, further contributing to the swelling.
On top of all that, you probably received IV fluids, whether it was Pitocin and other fluids during your vaginal delivery or medications and anesthesia during your c-section.
Your body doesn’t normally take in that much fluid so it can take days for your body to rid all that excess fluid.
How to relieve your poor swollen feet.
Your body will eventually dispose of all this fluid in its own time, however there are some ways you can help speed the process along.
Drink water. It seems counterintuitive, I know, but more water can help your kidneys process that extra fluid and communicate to them that they need to flush out all the fluid being held in.
Eat healthy. Taking care of your body in this way can really help a lot with the swelling.
Especially consuming foods high in vitamins C and E, potassium, and avoiding high sodium foods (you don’t want to retain more water than you need to).
Eating onion and garlic can help improve blood circulation, which will also help with the swelling especially in your lower extremities.
You can also consume natural diuretic foods such as celery, oats, citrus fruits, cabbage, and parsley. Be sure to double check with your baby’s pediatrician if you’re a nursing mama – some food/drinks such as coffee are not good in excess amounts for the baby.
Elevate, elevate, elevate. Keeping your hands and feet elevated helps promote drainage of fluid back to your heart.
No doubt you’ll want to rest after having your baby anyway, so now you have reason #12 why it’s a good idea for you to put those feet up and relax!
Keep your legs uncrossed when sitting and if you must go longer periods without sitting, try to keep shifting your weight from one leg to the other – both of these will help improve blood circulation.
Massage those feet. If it won’t cause you more pain or discomfort, massaging is great for increasing circulation and decreasing excess fluid buildup.
Have your significant other give you a nice rub UP, starting from the feet in an upward motion working toward your knees.
You can also have him set up a nice foot soak for you, which can help tremendously for relaxation and easing your discomfort. Cypress oil, lavender, or chamomile are all good choices if you want to add a little essential oil to the water.
According to the Bone, Muscle, and Joint Team of MDs at Cleveland Clinic however, there is very little evidence that supports the use of essential oils for swelling, but you can use them if they are helpful to you.
Use Cabbage. Cabbage is seriously a miracle worker when it comes to natural remedies.
Without washing the leaves, wipe the leaves clean and cool them in the fridge. They can then be used as a cool compress by wrapping them around the swollen areas; the cabbage draws out extra fluid which will help ease some discomfort.
Once the cabbage moistens you can remove the leaves, and repeat as needed.
When you should worry about it.
You should notice the edema go down within a week or so and is most often nothing to be concerned about.
However there are a few instances where you should contact your doctor for sure. If you see no improvement after a week, have awful leg pain, or are experiencing headaches, these could all be a sign of high blood pressure, which would need to be checked out.
If you notice only one leg is swollen and/or you have intense pain in the back of that leg, this could indicate a blood clot; very rare, but serious and needs immediate attention.
You should definitely seek medical help as well if you spike a fever, notice an increase in pain, redness, or see any leaky discharge around your incision site – all indications of an infection that need to be looked at.
Get yourself a comfy pair of shoes.
We have a great guide on shoes for pregnant women, and although you’ve already given birth, you can find a comfy pair of shoes that can make your swollen feet feel much better. Check it out!
Of all the symptoms you will experience during your recovery, hopefully your postpartum edema won’t be one to last long. Let us know of other remedies you’ve found to be helpful in the easing of your swelling!