Lower Body Changes During Pregnancy

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

1. Swelling

a. Probably one of the most common occurrences in the lower body during pregnancy is swelling. During pregnancy, the body starts producing more blood and bodily fluids in order to help your body adapt as it grows as well as provide for the baby, so some amount of swelling, often called “edema”, is totally normal while you are pregnant. (However, there is a dangerous amount of swelling, which could indicate preeclampsia, so make sure you do your research if you feel like you have excessive swelling!) 

b. If you want to limit the amount of swelling you experience on a daily basis, try these tips:

i. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time

ii. Get the proper amounts of potassium

iii. Try to stay out of very hot and humid temperatures for extended periods

iv. Limit your salt intake


2. Cramps

a. Cramps are a terrible source of pain and irritation and can be especially bothersome during pregnancy. Cramping occurs when there is a spasm in the muscle which can cause pain and sometimes even paralysis-type feelings in the affected area. These can be especially irritating if they occur during the night and wake you up! Several factors can contribute to cramps during pregnancy including weight gain and pinched nerves. Dietary needs also need to be taken into consideration as too much phosphorous or a lack of calcium could also contribute to cramping. 

b. Here are some tips to help with cramps:

i. Ensure that you are getting proper nutrition – particularly relating to phosphorous and calcium, as noted above

ii. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day

iii. Avoid hot temperatures for extended periods

iv. Stretch for a few minutes each day

3. Foot Growth

a. Did you know that your feet can grow up to a whole size during pregnancy?!? When you are pregnant, your body releases a hormone called relaxin which helps your body, and joints in particular, loosen to be able to accommodate growing and delivering a baby. You have no shortage of joints in your feet and many women find that as the joints in their feet are relaxed, the arch in their feet flattened out and caused their foot size to grow. Often, the feet will go back to the original size, but sometimes they will remain a bit bigger than they were pre-pregnancy.

b. Here’s how you can support your feet:

i. Wear shoes with good arch support to help your flattening arch

ii. Consider insoles for shoes without good support

iii. Exercise regularly to promote circulation in the feet.

iv. Get a partner or friend to give you a foot massage. 

4. Deep Vein Thrombosis

a. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops in your veins – particularly in the legs or pelvis. As this condition can lead to complications like a pulmonary embolism, it is very serious. During pregnancy, your body develops more clotting proteins, which make pregnant women more susceptible to this condition than non-pregnant women are. Symptoms of DVT can be pain in the leg, redness behind the knee, and swelling. 

b. Here are steps to take if you think you may have DVT:

i. If you even suspect that you may have this condition, you need to go see your doctor as soon as possible

ii. Typically, you will be put on anti-coagulation medication to prevent the formation of clots

iii. Exercise regularly to promote good circulation throughout the body

iv. Try to get up and move at least once an hour during the day

Some of these changes or complications to your body may have been familiar to you, but some of them may have been new. If you didn’t pick up on it, a common theme throughout the tips is to exercise on a daily basis and try to be active during the day. The more active you are, the better circulation you will have and less symptoms and complications you should experience during your pregnancy. Keep an eye out this week for lower body workouts and tips for staying active!

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