This post is for all those pregnant sisters out there that have lost their ankles and feel their feet wobble when they walk.

I’ve spent a bit of time with my little sister and her belly baby over the weekend. My dear pregnant sister seems to wearing well for 32 weeks pregnant, but she is suffering from some nasty swollen ankles. The kind that make your ankle bones disappear. She has the all clear from the birth centre midwives- no reason to suspect it is anything sinister, just one of those pregnancy things.

Caution: If you have swelling in the hands and face as well as the ankles, or, if you have one leg more swollen than the other, or, swelling comes on quickly- Please get checked out by an appropriate health professional as it could indicate a more severe health concern.

As far as normal annoying pregnancy tankles go, it is caused by a combination of a much greater blood volume and high levels of progesterone which cause your body to hold on to excess fluid . Also, your growing uterus puts pressure on the veins in the pelvis, which impairs the return of blood to your heart. In turn, this leads to swelling in the legs, ankles and feet.

This is a pretty common pregnancy discomfort and almost always goes away after delivery. One of my favourite things about the immediate post partum period is being able to urinate again in one steady, satisfying stream. I remember several loooong wee’s after my last birth and I wondered how on earth I could have had that much to get rid of. It was all the excess fluid I was carrying in my legs finally finding a way out. Ahhhh…

Hopefully you can find some relief before baby is born with these suggestions:

  • Stay off your feet. Avoid standing or sitting with your feet on the floor for long periods. Don’t cross your legs. When you can, sit with your feet up and occasionally rotate your feet at the ankles and wiggle your toes.
  • Spend time lying down with your legs elevated.
  • Avoid tight clothing, cuffs or jewellery around your ankles and wrists.
  • Sleep on your side and elevate your legs slightly with pillows.
  • This one is not easy in the hot Sydney summer but do your best. Stay cool. Heat can aggravate swelling during pregnancy. It might be soothing to apply cold-water compresses to swollen areas.
  • Soak in a large bath or pool of cool or warm water– Not hot. You need to be fully immersed upto your neck for a minimum of 10 minutes .
  • Get some exercise. Yeh, I know just what you feel like in hot weather but it will help. Take a walk or swim laps in a pool.
  • Drink herbal tea containing nettle leaf. It is a really safe and nutritious herb to use in pregnancy, is a kidney tonic and is great for helping to clear excess fluid. Today’s shameless plug: Natural Transitions pregnancy tea contains nettle and other herbs that may help reduce puffy ankles.  It tastes great and is specifically formulated to be safe for all stages of pregnancy. Dandelion tea is also a useful and safe diuretic that can help too.
  • Nutritional helpers include rutin, hesperidin, quercetin and vitamin B6. The first 3 are bioflavonoids, the best food sources of these include buckwheat seed, fruits and fruit rinds, especially citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime) and berries such as blueberries. Vitamin B6 is best found in spinach, bell peppers, garlic, tuna, cauliflower, mustard greens, banana, celery, cabbage, asparagus and other green vegies.

According to the Cochrane review I just read (based on small scale studies) compression stockings don’t work but reflexology works well.  So why not try a pregnancy reflexologist. I would also recommend acupuncture as a treatment modality to try. It can be so effective for pregnancy related discomforts and is very safe when carried out by someone with proper training.

That’s it from me. There are other things I might use with a patient after a proper consultation but that is my list of DIY’s. Does anyone else have a suggestion that might help the pregnant sisters out there see their ankles again before baby is born? If so, I’d love to hear ‘em. I love comments- please leave me one;-)