Hot Topic: Edema

As summer (FINALLY!) hits its stride here in Maine, a topic on many a pregnant Mamas mind will certainly be - WHERE DID MY ANKLES GO?!

Swelling. Fluid retention. Edema. There are many names for this common, sometimes uncomfortable, but always a bummer, condition. As you progress in your pregnancy, your Midwife or OB will ask at each appointment if you have had or are experiencing it.  So let’s dive into the topic of Edema and chat about what’s normal, what’s not, and what natural remedies are out there that can provide you with some relief.

The Basics

Around 28 weeks in your pregnancy, your blood volume has reached an all time high — nearly doubling from your pre-pregnant state.  With the increased fluid, comes an increased demand on your circulatory system to move that fluid throughout the body.  When all of this extra fluid does not move through the body as efficiently as it did previously, mild swelling in the hands, feet, legs, ankles, and face can occur.

Some factors that may contribute to edema during pregnancy are:

  • Summertime heat
  • Prolonged activity or standing
  • Insufficient potassium
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Excessive sodium intake
  • Inadequate protein consumption

If you notice swelling in your hands and face that comes on suddenly (or excessive swelling in other areas) contact your provider immediately as this can be a sign of Pre - Eclampsia.

The Remedies

The good news is that there are things you can do to relieve the normal swelling associated with pregnancy.

  • Drink plenty of water, more when it’s hot or you’ve been particularly active
  • Watch your sodium intake.  Foods affect each of us differently.  
  • Avoid standing for long periods of time.  If you’re on your feet all day, wearing supportive socks or compression hose can help encourage circulation and fluid return throughout the body.
  • Exercising or relaxing in a pool

Yoga Pose
Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall pose)

If you’ve ever attended a Prenatal Yoga class, chances are you haven’t been encouraged to end in a traditional Savasana or do much lying flat on your back in general.  The pretty standard advice from most doctors and yoga teachers that pregnant women in their second and third trimesters should not to spend much time laying flat on their backs is due to the concern that the extra weight of the baby will compress the Vena Cava vein and limit the blood flow to the baby.

How do you modify Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose for pregnancy?

Props, props, and more props. They key to finding a comfortable position in this pose, especially during the later stages of pregnancy is to elevate the torso slightly In much the same way you modify Savasana for pregnancy. I’m not going to lie: It can be kind of tricky to figure out how far away or how close you should be from the wall to make this work (after all, when you’re pregnant your belly is growing and shifting every day so what might be super comfortable one day might not feel so great the next). But I promise you the benefits are SO worth it!

  1. Create a “ramp”  using the props (bolsters, blankets, blocks, pillows) you have on hand close (but not TOO close) to the wall. Try setting up a foot away from the wall, and then adjust closer or further away as needed.
  2. Kneel down with your back to the wall, and slide one hip up onto the bolster. Reach the same side arm forward and roll yourself onto your bolster ramp as you lift your legs up the wall. Move forward or back as necessary.
  3. You can remain in this pose as long as you are comfortable, aiming for at least 5 minutes of continuous inversion.

Essential Oils

Edema Blend*

  • 10 drops cypress
  • 5 drops ginger
  • 5 drops lavender
  • 5 drops lemon
  • 10 drops massage blend (available from DoTerra)

Add to a base of two ounces fractionated coconut oil and massage onto legs, ankles, and feet.  Or you can add to a handful of sea salt/epsom salts and dissolve in a warm bath.

*Original recipe found in Essential OIls for Pregnancy, Birth, and Babies by Stephanie Fritz.


Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide. Simkin, Penny, P.T., et al, Ch. 6.


Disclaimer: The above content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.