Fluid retention during pregnancy

How common is fluid retention during pregnancy?

Fluid retention is very common in pregnant women; it is estimated that around 50 percent of pregnant women experience the symptoms of fluid retention. Fluid retention is more common in women who have a large number of children.

What causes fluid retention?

In many cases, fluid retention is a natural reaction to being pregnant, which is caused by hormonal changes taking place in the body. Pregnancy hormones can cause the kidneys to retain more salt than usual, which causes the body to retain more fluid. When you become pregnant the total amount of fluid in the body increases and a decrease in the level of protein in the blood can prevent fluid being retained in the vessels. Fluid retention may also be caused by standing for long periods of time and high blood pressure.

What are the symptoms of fluid retention?

The most common symptom of fluid retention is swelling; most women find that they experience swelling in their ankles, face, hands and feet. Some women also experience pain as a result of the swelling; this is often worse if they have been standing for a long time and it tends to get worse later in the day. Swelling is usually more noticeable on hot days.

Swelling can be symptomatic of several different illnesses; if you are experiencing pain or you are worried about your condition, talk to your midwife or arrange to see your GP. If the swelling is so severe that it affects your movement and starts to interfere with everyday life, contact your GP.

Easing fluid retention

Fluid retention is not usually painful but it can cause mild discomfort and it may stop you feeling 100 percent; here are some tips for reducing fluid retention and coping with the symptoms:

  • Exercise on a regular basis both prior to and during the pregnancy: exercise such as yoga, walking and swimming will help to keep the body fit and healthy and it will also reduce the risk of swelling
  • Raise the affected limbs
  • Lie down on your side
  • Wear loose clothing and avoid clothing that is very tight
  • Drink plenty of water (this will always be beneficial for your health, even if you do not have fluid retention)
  • Change your diet; natural diuretics including celery, herbal and fruit teas, garlic, onion aubergine, parsley and peppermint can help to ease bloating.

Try to avoid taking diuretic tablets when you are pregnant.

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