Towards the end of my pregnancy, I couldn’t wait for my swollen hands and feet to get back to normal. I was longing to wear regular shoes, not to mention my wedding ring. Nothing could prepare me for what would happen to my hands, feet, and face(!) after I had my baby.
I had a really difficult labor, pushing for over 30 hours, and finally having to resort to a forceps delivery. All that time, I was given IV fluids. So when my son finally made an appearance, I had turned into a Shrek with massive sausage fingers, ankle-less feet, and puffy cheeks. Once I had recovered enough to get up on my feet, I could only wobble around in massive slippers. It took over a week for the swelling to go down. I was miserable.
WHAT CAUSES THIS FLUID RETENTION?
Postpartum edema is a common condition. It affects many women after delivery to various degrees. During pregnancy, the body produces lots of extra fluids and 50% more blood to maintain a healthy pregnancy. This fluid doesn’t just go away immediately after birth. The body has to work for several days to rid itself of it.
That extra dose of hormones that brought my baby into the world was also responsible for some of the fluid retention. During the delivery, the pressure in the uterus forced all the fluid I received via IV to the extremities.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF POSTPARTUM EDMEA?
You may find yourself with extremely swollen hands, feet, legs, and face. Even your stomach can swell. The skin can be tight and itchy. There is a simple test you can do to check for fluid retention. Press on your skin for a few seconds and then after you remove your finger, there should not be an indention. The longer the indention lasts, the worse your condition is.
WHAT ARE MY TREATMENT OPTIONS?
Your body will naturally rid itself of these extra fluids. Even in my extreme case, it went away on its own. You may notice that you sweat a lot or urinate often. These are just other ways your body is getting rid of fluids.
I found a few things that made the swelling feel better:
- Keeping my hands and feet elevated.
- Avoid crossing my legs.
- Drinking a lot of fluids to keep things moving and avoiding salty foods.
- Getting up and moving around to get my circulation moving properly again. This can be difficult after a c-section and you should go slowly.
- Soaking my feet in warm water with a few drops of essential oils.
- Massage can improve circulation and help against fluid retention. I scheduled a massage right after we got back from the hospital and my husband watched the baby. It was magical!
WHEN TO BE CONCERNED
Be watchful that your condition improves daily. If you have any other symptoms like chest pain, trouble breathing, pain in your legs, headaches, changes in vision, or nausea, or if your condition worsens, call your doctor as these can be signs of other complications.