48 answers

Swollen Ankles Are an Understatement

i thought swollen ankles/feet were just uncomfortable. no one told me it could be painful! my feet, legs, arms, hands, and more hurt. i'm drinking lots of water like the books say. tylenol isn't helping. my doctor only suggested to stay off my feet, but i've got two kids at home. the only thing that helped was a full body massage, but what do i do during the day when my husband isn't home to do that and i can't even reach most of the places that hurt? any suggestions?

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

i've tried laying in bed with pillows elevating my feet, legs, or upper back, but it was just too uncomfortable. soaking my feet in cold water has helped some. the separate buckets for the kids are a must, otherwise they are sticking their feet in my bucket on top of my sore feet. the cranberry juice has made a big difference. it doesn't stop the swelling, but it definitely reduces the pain. and i hope to get to a pool this week. thank you all so much for your help!

Featured Answers


Swollen ankles could signal an Iron deficicency. That would explain why some pregnant people will swell and other pregnant people will not swell. I was 250 pounds with my pregnancies, on my feet quite a bit, and I had no ankle swelling.

Sweeling of the face, hands, trunk, etc is a thiamine defeciciency.

VIt c helps reduce inflammation in body.

Sugar causes cellular level inflammation in the body.

1 mom found this helpful

The reason protein helps is that the body uses one of the amino acids to keep water in the bloodstream. If that amino acid is low, the water leaks into the tissues. A good balance of salt intake is important too.

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I understand!! I am almost 8 months pregnant with #5 and although I do not have the swollen ankles, I do have circulation problems and terrible veins in both legs. The DR told me the same thing...4 kids at home(2 on track break), so putting my feet up? HAHAHA! I am with you there.
I sell Tahaitian Noni, the Noni juice has helped me tremendously!! I do not have to wear the medical stockings as much as I did, in fact I do not have to wear them most weeks at all.
Let me know if I can help with the juice...onlyh an ounce a day is needed.

More Answers

Are you craving salt or eggs?

There are certain physiological things that take place in the pregnant body. When this is explained it gives the pregnant woman a clear understanding of why salt is needed in the diet. First of all, the kidneys are working to increase her blood volume (an increase of 40% to 50%) by reabsorbing water and salt. The kidneys return the reabsorbed fluid and salt to the circulation. Next, in order for the kidneys to be able to perform this function correctly, the pregnant woman has to provide her body with an excellent diet, including plenty of water, salt and albumin. Adequate water intake helps by keeping pregnancy swelling at the normal level and helps protect her in case of excessive bleeding after birth, which can help to protect the new mother from going into shock. Also, included in this information is the benefit of albumin (egg white). Albumin is a protein containing essential amino acids that helps to keep the correct balance in the blood stream. This combination of salt, water and albumin, promotes a very healthy blood volume increase that is crucial to a healthy pregnancy. For more info, go to http://www.blueribbonbaby.org/ifyouarepregnant/

An excellent “salt in pregnancy” explanation is found in the book: **Understanding Lab Work in the Childbearing Years by Anne Frye**. She says that salt should NOT be restricted in the pregnant woman’s diet. A woman's desire for salt is the best gauge of how much she needs. Salt attracts fluid out of the tissues and into the circulation. It is not possible for the normal pregnant woman to eat too much salt, whatever is not needed will be excreted by the kidneys. This needs to be mentioned, since many women are told to restrict salt by a friend or doctor. Even if all other nutrients are adequate, salt restriction alone can cause elevated blood pressure and edema (swelling). Just two weeks of minimal salt intake causes the blood volume to begin to fall. This reflects an imbalance in the albumin/sodium ratio in the bloodstream allowing fluid to seep out of the circulation into the surrounding tissue.

Symptoms of too little salt in the pregnant diet would include an increase in blood pressure and swelling. It is normal to have a certain amount of swelling in pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. An excess amount would show up as pitting. Pitting edema is diagnosed when you press in on a swelled area and the area stays depressed. Another sign to watch for would be that the swelling is the same in the morning as it was the evening before. Ankle edema is not particularly significant but edema on the shins or breastbone is a definite sign.

C. McCollett, CBE, CLD, MWA

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You poor thing!

If you're not getting enough high quality protein, drinking all the water in the world will not help your ankle/leg swelling.

You need bio-available sources like eggs (my midwife had me eating two eggs every day for the length of my pregnancy), leafy greens like kale, chard & blue green algae (spirulina). Lamb, ostrich & emu are the highest, most bio-available meat sources of protein you can get. I know it sounds nutty, but I think you can get ostrich burger at Vitamin cottage & Whole Foods.

I'd also try a spirulina protein drink mix. There are some very good ones - just make sure it does NOT have soy protein.

Good luck and have a wonderful birth.



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Believe it or not, you're dehydrated. I went through the same thing after my son was born, and still have a scar on my left ankle from the swelling (3 years ago.) I had been drinking up to 12 bottles of water each day, but the natural pitocin in my body (breastfeeding spiked it) went haywire and I was in a ton of pain. The only thing that worked was Gatorade(Yuck, I know) as it replaces what you lack from regular water. I had a very hard time believing my doctor, but after they gave me a diuretic medication and I had to throw away my milk for 48 hours and it still wasn't working, I was willing to try anything, and they were right.

Also try red grapes, they have a great natural diuretic effect. Watermelon is also good, but Gatorade is the fastest. Good Luck! And yes, I know it's hard to believe you could possibly be dehydrated, but that's what it is.

3 moms found this helpful

You need to eat plenty of watermelon ! Green tea is an excellent diuretic. Try and get into a pool if you can. The outside pressure from the water will help rid your body of excess water. Are you spilling protein in your urine ? Did your doctor offer to come and watch the boys while you got off your feet ? I thought not.......@@ There are other homeopathics you can take as diuretics. If you have a good health food store, go there and speak with someone knowledgeable. Do not remove all salt from your diet, just use it cautiously. Unfortunately, this is very common and you will lose all this water after the birth.......... I know I did..sweat, sweat, sweat. IS there a teenager nearby who can watch the boys while you rest ? A girlfriend ? I totally understand the difficulty.............Hope this helps.

Mom to 7
Doula/4 VBACs
ICAN of No Colorado

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Hi C.,
I can't believe no one has suggested Uva Ursa tea. It helped me through 3 pregnancies as a natural diuretic. I learned about it in a book called "Birth", published in the late 70's. Other rememcies are:

locate some boots or a leg procedure that messages your legs for 1/2 hour or so and helps the blood flow to release excess water.

De-tox your feet with some electeral process or just use epsom salt baths and then follow with mint (and eucalyptus) foot and leg treatment by Mary Kay - really works - (you can contact me for some).
E. ###-###-####

2 moms found this helpful

Hey C.,

Honey, when you sit be sure your feet are elevated! They need to be higher than your hips to create a slope for fluid to move away from your feet and ankles. Make sense? When you sleep, try to may a way for your feet to be elevated also. When laying on your side you can stack pillows behind you, put your feet on top and your knees on the bed creating the slope.

Remember, too, movement is important...rotate your feet in circles.

Water is good to immerse yourself into, as well. The larger the body of water the better. But if all you have is a small tub, use it. If you can get yourself to a swimming pool daily, better.

Salt your food. Unfortunely the symptoms for having too much salt and having too little are basically the same. So, salt to taste--just enough--don't go crazy with it. Remember the weather is still warm enough for you to be sweating so you do need to replace lost salts.

Eat WATERMELON, lots of watermelon, and drink lots of LEMON water. The watermelon will help hydrate you, the lemon works as a diuretic which helps rid your body of excess fluid. Cran juices do the same whether it's cranberry or cranapple. (mixing cranberry with orange juice evenly 50/50 is AWESOME)

Rub your own legs. When you sit with your legs and feet propped up, put your hands around your ankle, gently squeeze, and put toward your body.

Remember to focus on the miracle of this time more than the sacrifice...you only have a few precious days having a private relationship with your little one--after that, the world begins to butt in.

2 moms found this helpful

The reason protein helps is that the body uses one of the amino acids to keep water in the bloodstream. If that amino acid is low, the water leaks into the tissues. A good balance of salt intake is important too.

1 mom found this helpful

I know that I'm a little late to respond but, something that I've always had great results with my pregnant clients (I'm a massage therapist) is brushing your legs from the foot towards the hip. It is something that your kids can help you with, just use a hair brush, I like the ones with the round tip on the bristles and gently brush up the legs, do this while your legs are elevated.

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C.! I know you already received an abundance of replies. But I feel compelled to share as well b/c I suffered SO terribly from swollen feet, ankles, legs, hands, fingers, etc. It was SO bad. This is a pic before it got really bad - http://nicoleflowers.blogspot.com/2008_05_01_archive.html

Anyway, after my c-section the swelling actually got worse! my friend brought me some support stockings -- they sell them at walmart and I know they aren't too expensive. I am not kidding -- I wore them to bed that night. The NEXT MORNING I could see my feet and ankles again. After two nights, it was like I was back to normal. INCREDIBLE. I thought it was Never going to end. I highly recommend it b/c it's cheap and fast. Next time I get pregnant, I'm going to wear them during the pregnancy. I was shocked b/c i pleaded with my doctor for recommendations and suggestions and he never told me about this. I told him that he MUST suggest to future patients that they use these b/c they totally work! Good luck!

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One of the most helpful things for swelling in my experience is swimming. The positive pressure of the water can help to push the fluid in your tissues back into circulation where it can be removed (expect to go pee a lot during and after!). Keep up the water intake before, during and after. Immerse yourself up to your neck and stay in for 20 minutes for best results.

Watermelon, celery, and cucumbers can also help. Try to rest on your left side a few times throughout the day, pressure the baby puts on your circulation makes it harder for the blood to get out of your legs when your standing or sitting.

1 mom found this helpful

oh - i know what you're going through! when this happened to me (though i didn't have a lot of pain) i tried to really limit my salt intake - that was making me retain water. i ate lots of fruits and veggies and tried to elevate my feet whenever possible. (i know you're busy with your other two boys).

have you asked your doctor if taking a water pill is safe during pregnancy? because you're in pain and can't really "rest" like your doc said, it may be worth a phone call - i have no idea if it's safe to take a water pill or not. i know that my mom had a heart condition and she retained a LOT of water too, and was able to find relief with water pills. i don't want you to think i encourage people to take pills (especially when pregnant) to help, but again, it may be worth a call.

lastly, i take it your blood pressure is good? sometimes high blood pressure will cause retention - i KNOW your doc is monitoring your blood pressure, but even if it's a little elevated (not at a concerning level though) that could cause some water retention.

hang in there - i know you don't want to hear that - those two weeks can be VERY long! my daughter went to 41 weeks! i went into labor 2 days before my induction. i was happy about that, but boy did i want to just have her at that point!

congrats on the baby - hope you get a lot of great ideas from the smart mamas on this site!

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This is the first time I have read, much less responded to oe of these messages. It sounds like you may have a little known condition called Lymphedema caused by an alternative functioning of the lymph system. My daughter has this in her feet & ankles. Many women who have had surgery for breast cancer getit in their arms. There are prescription strength knee-high socks & stockings and attractive, again prescription strength sleeves for the arms. These prevent the swelling. Your feet can be wrapped nightly to bring down the swelling. You should sleep with the foot end of your bed elevated. These strategies have made a noticeably positive difference in the swelling of my daughter's feet and ankles. Please reseaarch Lymphedema on the internet and discuss this with your doctor.

1 mom found this helpful


Swollen ankles could signal an Iron deficicency. That would explain why some pregnant people will swell and other pregnant people will not swell. I was 250 pounds with my pregnancies, on my feet quite a bit, and I had no ankle swelling.

Sweeling of the face, hands, trunk, etc is a thiamine defeciciency.

VIt c helps reduce inflammation in body.

Sugar causes cellular level inflammation in the body.

1 mom found this helpful

Try cranberry juice in large amounts and stay off your feet. I found the cranberry juice helps to rid your body off unwanted toxins.
Blessings on your new little one.
C. B

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You say you are drinking lots of water, but pregnant women need to drink something with salt and sugar in it too. Try a sports drink. Also eat watermelon, grapes, and other fruits that have a high water precentage. If you can get to a pool and soak, with as much of you under water as you can get.
Be sure to be eating lots of protein (meat, eggs and dairy) and salt your food to taste.
Congratulations on your pregnancy.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.,

Lots of good posts already-- I gained 16 pounds in the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy due to water retention ( I could not bend my knees), so I feel for you.
1. Make sure your doctor has checked you for preeclampsia.
2. Ask for a prescription for support hose used for people with lymphadema, since I had a prescription I didn't have to pay the entire $115 (well worth it) for the hose.
3. Swimming and massage helped a lot, but only for the first 10 minutes after I got out of the pool. Still worth it!
4. Sleeping sitting propped up helped with the pain in my hands and arms so that at least I could sleep part of the night. I folded over a body pillow (pregnancy type) and put it behind my back against the headboard.
5. Just remember, all that water will be gone within 72 hours of giving birth, and the pain should stop for the most part within a week.

Best wishes, my thoughts are with you!!

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When my feet swell form airplanes (which i know is not comparable to pregnancy, but i do REALLY swell up on a plane) I soak in a tub and drink parsley tea. Just steep some parsely in some HOT, not boiling, water. It should be light green. I pee all night ling, but my feet feel better. THe tub does the same as the swimming, positive pressure on the bady and all. Good luck. It will be over eventually.

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Hi C.!

I know your request was from quite a while ago, but I wanted to tell you what has been my lifesaver through both of my babies and beyond. I got a zero gravity chair from Relax The Back. It's about $195 (that included tax) and it folds up when you're not using it. It's incredibly comfortable and allows you to recline all the way back, yet it's not permanet like a regular recliner. I take it with me on every plane ride, every road trip, and I use it every night when my girls go to bed. Then I fold it up during the day (unless I need it). The brand name is Lafuma. There are knockoff versions, but they are not the same quality. These chairs have a lifetime warranty and they are awesome!

I even had to use it at church when I was pregnant with my 2nd daughter. It was the only way I could sit anywhere. I was so swollen I had to have my feet elevated all the time, unless I was in the car, which was torture. I hope you have found relief since the birth of your baby. At least go check out these chairs though. Take care and Happy New Year!

1 mom found this helpful

I am also pregnant with my third and have two boys under 4! It is next to impossible to just sit with your feet up, isn't it? My midwife (who has studied nutrition, whereas my OBs with my previous pregnancies hadn't) told us that swelling is both a symptom of too-little salt intake as well as too much. So if you're cutting out salt, stop, and salt your food to taste. Some already spoke about this in more medical/professional terms, but I wanted to let you know that it is a valid problem and to not ignore the salt balance in your body. I hope you can have a more pleasant remainder of your pregnancy. Happy New Year!

I understand!! I am almost 8 months pregnant with #5 and although I do not have the swollen ankles, I do have circulation problems and terrible veins in both legs. The DR told me the same thing...4 kids at home(2 on track break), so putting my feet up? HAHAHA! I am with you there.
I sell Tahaitian Noni, the Noni juice has helped me tremendously!! I do not have to wear the medical stockings as much as I did, in fact I do not have to wear them most weeks at all.
Let me know if I can help with the juice...onlyh an ounce a day is needed.

Sorry if this is a repeat, but water therapy helped for me. Either just soaking in the tub, or taking the kids to the pool. Even if you're active in the pool, it is beneficial.

I've heard that watermelon is supposed to stop you from retaining water. Worth a try since it's so yummy anyway!

I have lymphademia and I sleep with a comforter in between my mattress and box spring and take joint pills with MGM in them so that I can walk everyday
You have to have the feet above the heart if that doesn't work ask your doctor about compression pump

Relax your feet in a tub of cold water. When I was pregnant in the summer and swollen all the time, that was the only thing that would calm my swelling down. Then I would put my feet up for a while after about 20 minutes of soaking. It helped cool me and my feet down. Good Luck.

have either family or friends come and help. Take it easy, and elevate your legs.

Hi C.,

Have you tried elevating your feet as high as you can comfortably? (maybe a couple pillows on top of the ottoman?) (Ofcourse you'll probably need to turn on the TV for the boys--to sit long enough for this to work)

Maybe try talking to the boys about how your legs hurt (but that it will go away after the baby). And that you need to sit for 10 minutes every hour, and then show them the timer and put them in charge of making sure you sit. The responsibility might help motivate them to be calm for that 10 minutes.

Also putting the pillows at least under one leg at a time while lying down would help. The idea is to get all the blood that is stuck in your legs up and moving, by putting your legs up gravity does the work. Flexing your muscles while standing may also help. Keep up the massages at night!

I got very swollen w/ my pregnancies and wore compression stockings (like support hose). These are sometimes worn by flight attendants, nurses, etc. Yeah, they don't work with flip flops, but the compression helps the blood and fluids circulate. They are a bit expensive, but cheaper than a massage. I know you are getting close to "the end" but I found them to be a huge help, and worth the investment. Try a medical supply store, healthylegs.com, or maybe your maternity store has some.

Sorry, I didn't read everyone's answer. Did anyone mention that this could be a sign of pre-ecclampsia? Don't just drink water, eat salt too! And eat protein. Eat well. If you get even more swollen or your face gets swollen, call your doctor or midwife please.

With my third child (born two weeks ago),i too did have swollen painful ankles while pregnant. Putting my feet in a bucket of warm water help a tiny bit and yes my 5 and 3 years old had buckets for their pretend swollen feet too. It's summer ,so we can fortunately go outside for the "feet bath".hope this help .

See if you can get someone to watch your boys for a few hours and go hang out in a pool. If you are a swimmer, its still great exercise when pregnant. If you're not, find a pool where you can mostly float and relax.
You can also take your boys with you (there are several great indoor pools in the Salt Lake Valley, and I'm sure in other areas too. Look up county recreation). Stay in the shallower areas, but keep yourself in the water as much as possible.
Even relaxing in a full bathtub may help.
They buoyancy of the water helps your circulation by taking pressure off. It may only be a temporary solution, but it sounds like you are near the end of your pregnancy anyway. Hang in there!

When I was pregnant with my 4th, My doctor told me to drink a gallon of water a day and lay on my left side several times a day so that toxins can drain out. The only draw back is that you are getting up and using the bathroom a lot. Even at night when you can lay on your left side it will help a lot.

lots of water,protein and natural sea salt are the best sure fire remedy for swelling. Don't avoid salt.

Hi Carrie,

You can buy elastic support stockings in a uniform store for $7.99. They will help the swelling in you feet and they will also help with the discomfort and help prevent varicose veins. You do not need a prescription, as one post suggested. I am a nurse and I wear them when I work and have to stand on my feet for long periods of time.
Good Luck

I am a massage therapist & I will tell you- DON'T put your feet up!! You are having the fluid collecting (from your lymphatic system) and evelating your legs so that your belly is blocking it from draining/ circulating throughout your body. Try laying on your bed & hanging your leg off the side & massaging the bottom of your stomach to aid in the circulation. (I also had this issue with my 1st pregnancy- before I knew why!)

Sorry if I am repeating anyone else's suggestion (running low on time to reply right now!), but I would suggest finding an inversion table or, if you have a massage table which it sounds like you might (?) have your hubby set it up so that one end is higher than the other. This was one of the few ways I was able to get a little relief when my hubby wasn't around to massage me!

Hang in there! The end result is more than worth the discomfort (but you already know that!). :)

Hello C., When you elevate your legs, don't include your lower back. Just from the hips down. If you have a reclining chair that is perfect. The doctors say to keep the toes above the nose, but any kind of elevation will work wonders. I had many health problems, and surgeries while my children were small. What worked for me, was to bring toys into the living room where the recliner was, put on kids movies, and close all of the doors. We made the best of it and it actually was fun for the kids because it was something different. Good luck.

Asparagus is a natural diuretic. If you like it, maybe try including some in a meal and see if that makes a difference for you.

My Dr actually said that sometimes you can drink too much water when you are swollen...So to make sure you get enough, but don't overdo it.

You do need to stay off your feet. I was SO SWOLLEN with my first and ended up with preeclampsia. So retention can be another issue. Make sure you stay in sync with your OB so they can monitor all that.
I ached all over when my feet were so swollen. Try heating pads, soaking in a warm bath, if you have a heavy duty shower head just standing in the shower can help.
Staying off your feet is the best solution though.
I was put on bedrest at 34 weeks with my daughter due to swelling, preterm labor and blood pressure issues.
Keep your blood pressure monitored, ONLY TWO WEEKS LEFT!

Did anyone suggest soaking in Epsom Salt? that will reduce swelling usually. Best of luck!

I know this question is very old and that the questioner has had her baby already, but for others who might read it I thought I would put in my two cents worth. Check the water you're drinking. When we moved from Texas to Oregon, we drank the tap water from Texas for 2 days (we had been drinking bottled water while living there). I was pregnant (about 5 months along), and those two days my feet and ankles swelled so badly it was painful. We had recently learned that the tap water in our town was very hard (10 is considered hard, and ours was 15), and it only swelled on the days I was drinking that water. This is my second pregnancy, and I can't say I've had any significant swelling other than those two days. Last pregnancy I was cooking with the tap water (in Texas) and I did have some swelling (but I was drinking bottled water, so it wasn't as bad as the two days I drank only tap water this time around). So unless you're drinking bottled water already, you might want to check on how hard the water is. Of course, that's only one cause, but if nothing else works, it might be the solution.

don't eat salt

stay off your feet when you can and elevate them!

drink even more water!!!

put your feet up for 20 minutes 3 times a day. It is over soon though when you deliver.

Are they concerned about pre-ecclampsia? What is your blood pressure? v

Hi C.,
When I was pregnant, I found that the days that I got swollen ankles and feet were the days that I did not eat enough protein. I was a student of the Bradley Method which has women eat about 80 grams of protein a day. Also, I found that when I ate sugar, I would swell up as well. So, my suggestion would be to increase your protein intake and eliminate sugar.
Good luck in these last few weeks!

I didn't have a baby/toddler to watch - I have a husband who wants/ed the house clean! My only relief was at night, when I folded up a blanket and lay it across the foot of the bed, then put my feet on it. Just a couple of inches, and in the AM - oh what relief! And after naps, too.

trick is to fold 1-2 blankets together to create a wide soft, slightly higher place for your lower legs, not just your feet.

I hope you get some relief!
GoodLuck, and congratulations!

sleep with your feet on pillows. this was only way i had time to put my feet up and releive my massive cankles. if you do have downtime, stay with those feet elevated above your heart until you feel the water draining! what a relief that feeling is. i hope this helps! hang in there, pretty soon all that water will be finding its way out for good!

I do not see where you have discussed this with your doctor? This really is a serious condition-you must talk to your doctor quickly-even if you have already had the baby. It could be something that medication can help or at least make it easier to go away. (like water pills and possibly blood pressure meds?) You need to talk to the doc. now! After all you do not want to wait till you have a stroke or otherwise hurtful to you and your kids. Now make your call!!!!

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