What causes this to happen, anyway?
When can you expect your feet to start puffing up? Well, the good news is that it’s usually later on in pregnancy. So you’ll likely recognize your feet for the first half or more of your pregnancy.
Various factors contribute to foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy. For starters, your body retains more fluid during pregnancy. Also, your growing uterus puts pressure on your veins, which impairs return of blood to your heart. Hormonal changes also play a role.
Rapidly increasing levels of the hormone progesterone (literally “pro gestation” or “pro pregnancy”) slow your digestion down. This can cause abdominal bloating long before you have a noticeable baby bump.
You may also notice a bit of puffiness in your hands, feet, or face — but not much.
If you notice a lot of swelling this early on, especially if accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, or bleeding, it’s best to call your doctor or birthing professional, such as a midwife.
The second trimester begins with week 14 of pregnancy, roughly the start of month 4. It’s not unusual to start noticing swollen feet around month 5 of pregnancy, especially if you’re on your feet a lot or the weather is hot.
This swelling is due to the increasing volume of blood and fluids in your body. Your blood volume increases by about 50 percent during the course of your pregnancy, and that’s paired with a lot of hormonal fluid retention.
While it may make your rings and shoes a little snug, all this extra fluid helps to soften your body and prepare it for giving birth — and that’s exactly what you want. Rest assured, the extra fluid will rapidly decrease in the days and weeks after your baby is born.
Starting with week 28 of pregnancy, the third trimester is by far the most common time to experience swollen feet.
Especially as the weeks go on and you get closer to week 40, your toes are more likely to resemble little sausages than anything else (yes, becoming a parent is glamorous).
Your body is continuing to build its supply of blood and fluids, which can contribute to swelling. Your uterus is also getting much heavier as your baby grows, which can slow blood flow from the legs back to the heart. (Don’t worry, this isn’t dangerous — just uncomfortable.)
Other factors that can contribute to swollen feet include:
Foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy is common and usually goes away after delivery. In the meantime, it might help to:
Some research suggests that foot massage and reflexology, which involves applying pressure to certain areas of the feet, hands, and ears, might help decrease foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy. Also, swelling doesn't mean cutting back on how much you drink. The Institute of Medicine recommends about 10 cups (2.4 liters) of fluids a day during pregnancy.
Although mild foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy is normal, sudden swelling that is painful — especially if it's in one leg only — could be an indication of a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis). A sudden increase in swelling also might mean that your blood pressure is higher than normal. Both conditions require prompt evaluation and treatment.