Your Guide to Postpartum Swelling

Your Guide to Postpartum Swelling

Along with your new job of diaper-changing, feeding, and staring into the eyes of your tiny new crush, you may have to deal with postpartum swelling.

No piece of real estate is exempt—your face, your feet, your hands, your belly, your breasts, your perineum.

Yep, the postpartum puff is a thing, and you’ve just found a whole new way to look swell.

In this article 📝

  • What causes postpartum swelling?
  • How long does postpartum swelling last?
  • How to get rid of postpartum swelling
  • How do you get rid of swollen feet after pregnancy?
  • When should I be worried about postpartum swelling?

What causes postpartum swelling?

In most cases, postpartum swelling (AKA postpartum edema) is caused by extra fluid buildup in your tissue.

When you’re pregnant, your blood and bodily fluids increase by an average of 45%.

As this study tells us, this means that your total body water increases by one-and-a-half to two gallons during this time.

Add to this the fluid retention caused by increased levels of progesterone and let’s just say pregnancy fills you to the brim.

And just when you thought you couldn’t pack more of a fluid punch, you may also be given fluids via IV to keep your blood pressure up during delivery.

All this fluid has to go somewhere—and it can’t all leave overnight.

How long does postpartum swelling last?

Postpartum swelling may take up to a week to go down.

Luckily, our bodies are pretty good at the elimination process.

When you sweat and pee, the extra fluid will slowly drain from your system—you may just have to be a little patient.

How to get rid of postpartum swelling

There’s no magic pill that will get rid of postpartum swelling—but there are steps you can take to feel more comfortable:

  • Drink lots of fluids: Sorry, what? Aren’t we trying to get rid of fluids? Yes, and we need more fluids to help flush them out (hey, we didn’t make up the rules). Basically, dehydration causes you to hang on to every bit of fluid you have. But extra fluids help to switch your kidneys into full flush mode.
  • Get a postpartum massage: As the American Pregnancy Association tells us, postpartum massage can not only help reduce swelling but also help with all sorts of other things like hormone regulation, pain relief, and stress reduction.
  • Move. But not too much: Particularly if you’ve had a c-section, you’re probably under strict instructions not to do too much. Some very gentle movements can be beneficial. Light stretching and a bit of slow walking can help to get things moving.
  • Change positions: If you’re a fan of sitting with your legs crossed, change things up a bit to avoid cutting off circulation.
  • Add potassium, delete salt: Sodium can cause water retention. Potassium can help to counteract it. Add some avocados and bananas to your shopping list.
  • Compression socks and leggings: As this 2017 study tells us, compression socks and leggings can provide some gentle relief for your lower half.

How do you get rid of swollen feet after pregnancy?

Postpartum feet swelling can be a particular challenge.

Spending a bit of time with your feet higher than your heart can help get the circulation going.

Try not to stick in one position too long.

And if you have someone around who can help you out with a good foot massage, take it.

When should I be worried about postpartum swelling?

Postpartum swelling is usually nothing to worry about and tends to go away on its own.

But if you’ve gone past the one-week mark or the swelling appears to be getting worse, get in touch with your doctor.

One potential complication is postpartum preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure and protein in your urine.

It usually develops within 48 hours of giving birth and can affect the functioning of your organs.

If any of these symptoms accompany your postpartum swelling, get in touch with your doctor as soon as you can:

  • Intense headaches
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Sudden weight gain

The fourth trimester can be a challenge for so many reasons.

Get support—from friends, Peanut, and counselors.

No need to do this alone.


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