Swelling of hands and feet is common in pregnancy.
Swelling is due to pregnancy hormones resulting in fluid retention in the body. It usually occurs in the feet/ankles and hands/wrists. It can also be noticed in the vulval area, in the face and in the general body.
Historically excessive swelling has been used as a sign of preeclampsia though it usually does not indicate this. Also preeclampsia often occurs without significant swelling.
Swelling usually gets worse in advanced pregnancy and can be even more marked immediately after delivery.
Fluid retention in the hands can result in carpal tunnel syndrome. This is due to fluid causing pressure on the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel at the base of the hand. This may result in pain, weakness, tingling or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm.
As well as not being attractive swelling can cause considerable discomfort and numbness.
Unilateral swelling can reflect a past injury to that region of the body, varicose veins or even venous thrombosis.
What can be done?
It will settle once you have had your baby. It can get worse in the initial postnatal period and can take some time and occasionally months to go. With it settling, you will typically produce more urine.
Please advise your doctor if swelling is marked or unilateral so the cause can be established and other health considerations checked.
If it is swelling of the feet/ankles then wear loose, comfortable shoes. Sometimes only thongs can be worn. Put your feel up as much as possible. There is no medical benefit in wearing tight stockings unless it makes you feel more comfortable.
Swelling of the hands/wrists can result in your rings becoming tight and cutting into your fingers. Remove them before this is a problem. Occasionally a ring has to be cut off. This can be very upsetting especially if it is a wedding ring. Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are usually worse first thing in the morning as you do not exercise your fingers while asleep and because of gravity. Elevation of the hands at night, using your fingers, and leaving your hands in water for extended periods can help. Splints can help. Occasionally a surgeon will need to cut the band of tissue around the wrist overlying the median nerve to release the pressure on the nerve. For other swellings, nothing can be done, but be reassured it will end after the pregnancy.
See also: Swelling in Questions & Answers