Postpartum swelling is one of the little annoyances that new mothers deal with as they are on their way to recovering from pregnancy. The swelling can range from mild to even severe in some cases. Some moms (like me!) will even completely lose sight of their ankles.
The good news is that postpartum swelling is temporary and will fully clear up in a week or so. This does not change the fact that it is uncomfortable and somewhat unbecoming, so most moms want to know how to get rid of postpartum swelling fast.
So let’s look at 7 easy ways to quickly reduce postpartum swelling from the comforts of your home.
Why do we swell up?
During pregnancy our body has 50% more blood in order to adequately perfuse the placenta. Basically, we have “grown us some more plumbing” so we need extra blood to fill it all up!
The placenta also produces an excess of the hormone progesterone, which causes fluid and sodium retention. (source)
As your uterus grows larger, it compresses the large vessels that allow our blood to return to the heart. This means the blood is pooling in your lower extremities and causing fluid to leak out into your legs, ankles, and feet.
Because of all these things, you will probably already go into labor a little swollen. If you have a hospital birth, you will likely be given extra IV fluids, which will add even more fluid to your body.
Labor is traumatic to the body whether you have a vaginal delivery or a cesarean. Postpartum swelling can show up in your hands, feet, ankles, arms, legs, face, perineum, or incision site (depending on which route you gave birth). This is truly normal and will take time to clear up.
We will be discussing things that can speed the process along, however it is essential to be aware that there are some instances where postpartum swelling is not normal and could be a sign that something is wrong.
When is postpartum swelling not normal?
There is a wide range of normal postpartum swelling intensity so the majority of the time, there is not a reason to be concerned. However here are some things to watch out for:
- An uneven amount of swelling in one extremity versus the other
- Sharp pain in your leg while walking
- Redness and heat in one extremity
This could be a sign that you have developed a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and it is important to contact your doctor immediately.
This means there is a clot that has developed in one of your veins, is blocking your blood from flowing, and could run the risk of dislodging which could cause a heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism.
Another rare but possible cause of postpartum swelling is Peripartum Cardiomyopathy, where the heart has become weakened due to pregnancy and is not pumping effectively. (source) Symptoms include:
- Feelings that the heart is racing or skipping beats
- Shortness of breath when you lay flat
- Feeling lightheaded upon standing
- Swelling that does not go away
If you are concerned that you may have signs of heart failure postpartum, do NOT wait for your 6 week postpartum check-up. Call your doctor and get checked out right away.
How to Get Rid of Postpartum Swelling FAST!
Drink plenty of fluids
It may seem counterintuitive to drink lots of water when you are trying to get rid of swelling.
Your body has many ways to remove extra fluid and the largest of these is the kidney’s ability to make tons and tons of urine. Staying well-hydrated keeps your heart pumping more blood to your kidneys.
I know you are ready to be done peeing every 5 minutes but get ready because you have a lot of urine production ahead of you! I finally noticed not going to the bathroom as much around 5 month postpartum. I guess this is why they say that patience is a virtue.
Eat a healthy diet
Having an intentional diet postpartum is so important for multiple reasons. You have the great privilege to breastfeed your sweet little baby and need to support your body nutritionally to make rich milk yet still having enough left over for healing.
Get plenty of organic lean protein and try to avoid processed foods. Processed food contains a lot of sodium which will cause you to retain fluid and can make swelling worse.
Related: Best foods for lactating mothers
You need to have plenty of protein (called albumin) in your blood because it is responsible for the oncotic pressure that PULLS fluid from your extremities back into your bloodstream. Then your heart is able to pump the blood to your kidneys, your kidneys turn the fluid into urine, and you get to keep on peeing around the clock until you are back to your normal shriveled up self!
Go for walks postpartum
One of the best things you can do to speed your healing postpartum is to get outside and go for a walk. Each step causes your calf muscles to squeeze the extra fluid back up to your heart and the fresh air does the body well!
If you have had a cesarean you can still go for very short walks, although it may be a good idea to have dad push the buggy. Just listen to your body and if you start to feel any pain, turn around and end your walk.
Walking gets your heart pumping which improves your circulation and gets that fluid moving out of your body faster.
Get adequate rest
Here I am telling you to exercise and now I am telling you to rest. But rest is equally important when it comes to recovery.
Lay down with your feet elevated above the heart for 5-10 minutes at least 3 times a day. Gravity will help reduce the swelling and it can also relieve some of the pain in your feet.
Wear compression hose
When you aren’t resting and elevating your feet, continue to wear the compression hose your wore during pregnancy.
Compression gear supports your skin so it doesn’t feel as stretched from the swelling pressure and also helps your body reabsorb fluid.
This will be especially important if this is not your first baby, as you will probably be up and about running after your toddler more than a first-time mom.
Drink herbal teas
Not only are certain herbal teas soothing but they have many positive medicinal effects for postpartum women.
Nettle tea or Sting Nettle tea is a diuretic and galactogogue. Galactogogues increase breastmilk production and diuretics make you pee more. More pee = less swelling . Nettle also has anti-inflammatory properties which hasten healing after delivery.
Another great herbal tea to drink is dandelion tea, as it is also a galactogogue and diuretic.
Homeopathy for fluid retention
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