Edema (or swelling) in pregnancy is a common occurrence. Most women experience it to some degree usually during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Edema can be a isolated symptom or in some cases a marker for something more serious like Preeclampsia. For this article, we are going to discuss edema as an isolated symptom of pregnancy and not part of a larger cause like preeclampsia.
Pregnancy hormones mainly estrogen can create water retention because it creates the connective tissue to swell which is a protection for mother and baby. But excessive edema, (like the photo below) is a major discomfort and a sign that there is a stress on the kidneys or a severe lack of dehydration both of which are not optimal for a healthy and easeful pregancy.
There are several ways to insure you do not swell to excess during pregnancy. The first of which is circulation.
Move Your Body
Having an exercise routine at least 30 minutes a day of walking, yoga or pilates will keep your blood flooding easily to your extremities. Sometimes this is all that is missing from your routine to reduce swelling. Locally in our Denver community there are plenty of choices to take classes specifically for pregnancy. Places like Belly Bliss and The Mama'hood are two great businesses that are women centered. Also yoga studios like Breathe yoga which offer a prenatal yoga class on Saturdays with Laura Wade Jaster, an incredible teacher, is another great option! If you cannot get to a class, a brisk walk of 30 minutes everyday is a perfect way to get your blood flowing.
Another area to explore if you are already doing some movement therapy is your level of hydration. Most people think drinking water is enough to keep you hydrated. But it is not. Minerals are what hydrate us not just the water. And because our soil is so mineral deficient and most of us are filtering our water (which is a very good thing!) we need to add minerals back into the water and our diet.
The first and essential way to do this is to re-mineralize your filtered water. If you are drinking distilled or reverse osmosis water most every mineral is stripped out. So we have to put it back in. Adding a pinch of Celtic or pink Himalayan sea salt to your water is the foundation for that re-mineralization. If you local to Colorado, I get my salts from The Savory Spice shop but most health food stores carry both of these salts. Table salt and kosher salt are not good substitutes. Table salt is 97.5% sodium chloride, 2.5% chemicals and dried at over 1,200 ºF. So as you can see, not much health benefit there. But Himalayan sea salt has over 500 minerals in it, contains all 84 elements that are found in the body and has a huge list of benefits to it outside of hydration.
For some women, especially if not pregnant, adding minerals to your water is all you need to feel hydrated. But for most pregnant women, especially in the dry climate of Colorado during winter, where the dry heat is on, we have to take this further. You need to super boost your water. One of the easiest ways to reduce swelling I have seen in my practice and in my own body being 6 months pregnant is adding a product called Vega Hydrator to your water once a day. This is a vegan, completely artificial free product. I love this and have seen it reduce edema within days. It is sweetened with stevia and does taste a bit sweet (to me) but it is worth the benefit. You can find it at most health stores and online.
If you are properly hydrated and moving your body on the regular, look into your diet. Are you ingesting too much sodium?
Now as I briefly stated above sodium and salt are two different things. If you are salting your food with a good Celtic or Himalayan salt this is perfect. And actually too little salt in a diet can cause water retention. But if your diet is consisting of canned soup, frozen dinners and packaged food as part of your daily plan, or you eat out regularly, I guarantee you are getting way to much sodium. 2,500 mg is about what you want to shoot for during pregnancy and beyond. But eating one can of Annie's organic lentil soup is around 1,200 mg of sodium. And most people are getting about 6 times this amount daily. So skip the canned soup and make it from scratch! There are some very simple recipes out there, and if you need inspiration, head over to my Pinterest page and check out my Super Clean Eats board. I love to cook and eat so you will find tons of healthy recipes.
And if you are doing all of the above with no relief, then looking at a mild herbal diuretic to support the kidneys is essential. Diuretic herbs like nettles and dandelion, an infusion of 2 cups daily, will help support your kidneys to reduce the load. A herbal recipe to reduce swelling is below:
3 parts nettles leaf
2 parts dandelion leaf
1 part spearmint or peppermint
Use 1 tbs of the combined dried plants to 1 cup of pure water. Allow to steep for at least 20 minutes. Drink 2 cups daily.
If you are not yet a client of mine and do not have access to my herbal blends, contact me to order the above tea. Or you can source it from a local apothecary like Artemesia and Rue in Denver or Mountain Rose Herbs online.
I use the above as a holistic remedy to prevent edema. But if all of this fails, then it is time to speak with your midwife or health care provider to make sure it is not a condition like Preeclampsia. Some of the above steps can combat Preeclampsia if mild but for more severe cases especially in late pregnancy, you want the support of your birth team!
Have experience with Edema and success with something not mentioned above? Leave a comment below so we can learn from your wisdom.