Congratulations for your new bundle of joy! Life surely seems wonderful, isn’t it?
As a new parent, you are obviously over the moon. Your little baby is the best thing that happened to you and you are enjoying motherhood perfectly.
Well, are you? Even as you enjoy this feeling, there are a million things that will cause discomfort and worry. One such thing is postpartum edema.
What Is Postpartum Edema?
Most women associate swelling with pregnancy. But not many are aware that swelling after pregnancy is also a possibility. Though temporary, postpartum edema (swelling) can mar your post-birth experience. This is the time to bond with your newborn. But how can you concentrate on your baby when your body is all bloated?
Your body stores fluids during pregnancy and produces blood. This is 50% more than the usual amount, to nourish and protect both you and your baby. But not all of this excess blood leaves your body during delivery.
A combination of this extra blood volume,
Unfamiliar areas like incision sites, including C-sections and episiotomy incisions could also be subjected to the same and could be a general source of discomfort and inconvenience for you.
Causes of Postpartum Edema:
The aggregation of excess blood, water and hormonal changes after delivery culminates into postpartum edema. A major cause of weight gain during pregnancy is water retention. It assists the tissues to deal with your baby’s growth and prepares your pelvic area for a safe labor. If you are wondering why swelling in legs and feet after delivery, read on:
1. The most common cause for postpartum swelling is hormonal. The body produces a large amount of progesterone during pregnancy. This excess progesterone causes water and sodium retention in the body, which leads to postpartum swelling.
2. Another cause for postpartum swelling is your expanding uterus. Your growing uterus restricts blood flow to the lower part of the body. This can also lead to fluid build-up and postpartum edema.
3. A vaginal birth can also contribute towards postpartum swelling. As you push to give birth, your body sends extra blood towards the hands and feet, which causes swelling.
4. IV fluids are also a big cause for postpartum swelling. Most women get IV fluids during childbirth – both vaginal and C-section. This extra fluid tends to accumulate in the body and cause localized edema.
Postpartum edema gradually subsides, as your body would eliminate all the excess fluids on its own.
[ Read: Postpartum Rectal Bleeding ]
How Does It Subside?
The first thing to remember is that you need to relax, as general swelling is absolutely normal.
- The swelling in the familiar areas like hands, legs, feet, face and lower back should reduce in a week’s time.
- During this span, your kidneys would be subjected to over work to eliminate the excess fluids from your body.
- This means that you will experience increased urination.
- Another outlet for this expulsion is body pores as extra fluids would also be expiated as sweat.
Postpartum edema is more of a nuisance than anything sinister. In the majority of cases, postpartum swelling disappears within a week post childbirth. But there are times when your swollen body may indicate something more dangerous. Here are a few risk factors you should know about:
1. Postpartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM):
A rare, life-threatening heart disease, PPCM comes suddenly and can be fatal. One of the major symptoms of PPCM is postpartum edema. Other symptoms include (1) :
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Increased urination at night
[ Read: Postpartum Urinary Incontinence ]
2. Postpartum Preeclampsia:
Preeclampsia is more common during pregnancy. But it can happen after childbirth too. Postpartum preeclampsia can strike as soon as you give birth, or it can develop four to six weeks post birth. Symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia includes (2) :
- Swelling in the extremities
- High blood pressure
- Excess protein in the urine
- Severe headaches
- Changes in vision
- Upper abdominal pain
- Decreased urination
3. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT):
DVT can cause death within hours. If you notice the following symptoms, consult your doctor (3) :
- Swelling in one or both legs
- Pain or tenderness in one or both legs
- Red skin in the affected leg
- Visible veins
- Leg fatigue
All these conditions are serious and require urgent medical care. So, if you do have postpartum swelling, check for other symptoms to rule out these life-threatening causes.
12 Ways To Ease Postpartum Edema:
Once you make sure that the swelling in your body is nothing serious, you can look for ways to find relief. Here are a few tips you can use to treat postpartum edema:
1. Proper Rest:
Avoid crossing legs and standing for long duration, as the former restricts the blood flow. While lying down, placing the legs at an elevation above the hips would be helpful. Put your feet up high, above the level of your heart. This will improve circulation and ease the swelling.