Did you know whilst you are pregnant, your body can increase your temp by up to nearly 1 whole degree? Wonderful news for your little incubating baby who is tucked up cosily! Certainly not an issue if you are enjoying a white Christmas and singing songs about “It’s cold outside”, but when you are facing a Brisbane summer filled with 30+ degree and 70% humidity things start to look a bit less cosy and a bit more like cankles. So let’s talk about what might help you get through these next few months.
Swollen feet are the most common complaint we have seen in our clinic over the last few days so let’s start there. Why do you get them? It all goes back to your amazing body and your beautiful growing baby. To make sure your little one has lots of opportunity to get all the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, your blood plasma volume increases by an impressive 30-40%. Add to this the weight gain in pregnancy, increases the workload on your heart, slowing down circulation of blood and bodily fluids particularly in the lower limbs. The veins in your pelvis are working pretty hard, and on some days gravity takes hold leading to 50-70% of well mums experiencing some periods of swelling/fluid retention in their hands, feet and face. Typically, this worsens at the end of the day, especially if you have been on your feet, on hot days and closer to the end of your pregnancy. The extra fluid however helps soften joints and ligaments to allow your baby a little more growing room in your pelvis and even your feet to give you a greater base of stability!
A few things can help reduce swelling and make you more comfortable. Elevating your feet is the easiest and quickest way to gain some relief. If you work at a desk, try using a footstool or even a few thick books underneath your desk. If your job requires you to stand for long periods, try to negotiate regular breaks. If you have an opportunity, try lying down on your left side for occasional breaks of 10-15 mins. Alternately, try using support stockings or tights before you get out of bed and before that pesky fluid has the chance to head south. It’s time to swap your high heels for some comfy shoes. Your goal is to let that blood flow freely so it can move back towards your baby. Balancing your electrolytes and remaining hydrated by trading coffee for water and reducing your salt intake will also reduce retention of any excess fluid. Ask your wonderful family and friends to give you a foot rub. It doesn’t have to be complicated, simple upward strokes again help that extra fluid go to the right places. Finally, many women find acupuncture or remedial massage helpful.
Mild swelling is often normal in pregnancy but sudden onset or severe swelling (pitting edema) associated with headaches, blurred vision and concerns about baby’s movements can be signs of pre-eclampsia which is a serious condition for both you and your baby. If you have any of these concerns, please talk to your Hatch health care provider or phone the Pregnancy Assessment Centre at Mater Mothers Hospital on 3163 7000.
Aside from swelling, summer brings a few other challenges for our pregnant Mums:
• Pregnancy can make you perspire more. Add to that your growing bump and chaffing can be an uncomfortable side-effect of a summer pregnancy. Try breathable, cotton, loose fitting maternity wear, kaftans, and sarongs. These also give the advantage of reducing your risk of thrush.
• Enjoy water! Try increasing your fluids with a squeeze of refreshing lemon, orange or lime juice added to icy water. Alternately, add a few blueberries, raspberries or grapes to your ice-cubes for a cooling treat at the end of your long day. Or maybe splurge and make yourself a mocktail – just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t have a drink with a fancy umbrella in it!
• Fill a simple refillable spray bottle with water and pop it in the fridge. A quick squirt will give you quick, refreshing lift. Cool showers can be a fantastic break.
• Swim. The weightlessness of a pool can provide you with wonderful relief from joint pain and can help reposition your baby. Look into pregnancy aqua aerobics. Not only will these classes offer a cool change, it will give you a chance to get in some low impact exercise, and is a great way to meet other pregnant Mums in your local area.
Summer won’t last forever so whilst it is here, if you work in air-conditioning, embrace heading to work. Maybe try heading to the movies or hit the local shopping centre, or simply crank up the air-conditioning at home.
If you really need to do outdoor activities, try to schedule things either in the early morning or evening. An evening stroll can be a great way to unwind from a busy day, connect with your partner and appreciate that sweet little growing baby. Even when you feel like you are melting, try a little reminder that your body is amazing and this really is a magical time in your lives.