During the pregnancy journey, there are many wonderful moments but there are also some not so wonderful moments. Swelling and varicose veins are two problematic things some women experience during their pregnancy. Both are caused by changing hormones, retaining fluids, and the growing uterus. As the baby grows so does the uterus, which impacts the return of blood to the heart. This is also why it’s important to lay or sleep on your left side rather than your back. This eases the pressure off of the vein (inferior vena cava) that returns blood from your lower extremities to your heart.
The body is producing more blood and body fluids to meet baby’s needs, and because of this there can become an accumulation of fluid in the tissues. Usually you will notice swelling in the legs or hands but can also be seen in the nose. There are foods that will make swelling worse for the mama to be, such as salt. Sodium causes your body to retain water, so reducing the amount of salt in your diet is beneficial. Also, processed foods and caffeine can cause swelling. Processed foods can be high in trans-fats, which can lead to swelling.
There are also many foods that can help with swelling, such as fruits and vegetables. Getting the essential vitamins and minerals from your diet will help insure your body is working properly to remove excess water. Foods high in potassium, such as bananas, will help keep the body chemically balanced and help reduce swelling. Protein helps balance the amount of fluids found in your tissues. Not eating enough can result in swelling as well as varicose veins. The body prioritizes the baby during pregnancy, so if you’re not providing your body with enough for baby and yourself, it could mean problems for mama. Lastly, drink water! When you think of water retention, the thought of adding more water to the problem may be a bit confusing. Drinking plenty of water will flush the body and reduce water retention.
Other ways to help with swelling:
- Take a walk! Moving around helps move the fluid from your feet and ankles.
- Elevate your feet when sitting or laying down
- Use a stress ball to reduce swelling in fingers and wrists.
As stated before, because your blood volume increases, this puts pressure on the veins, which can cause varicose veins. When capillaries eventually break from too much pressure, they leave small blood marks under the skin. They may become itchy and uncomfortable but typically they will go away after giving birth. Hemorrhoids are another kind of varicose vein, resulting from constipation (but we will touch on that another time!) There are ways to help minimize or even prevent them from occurring, such as eating a diet high in bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoid rich foods help strengthen the arterial walls. Some examples of these types of foods are citrus fruits, garlic, spinach, broccoli, and berries. These types of foods can also help with stretch marks. As with swelling, make sure you reduce the salt in your diet and increase the amount of fiber you intake (to prevent constipation). Drink plenty of water, which is super beneficial throughout your entire pregnancy.
Other ways to prevent varicose veins:
- Don’t sit with legs crossed
- If standing or sitting, move around often
- Prop up legs
- Sleep on left side
- Get regular exercise
- Wear maternity support hosiery. These put pressure on the legs, which stimulate blood flow up the leg towards the heart.
Making sure you are eating enough nutrients can be tough to keep up with. When I need something simple but packed with tons of good things for the body, I turn to one of my favorite power salads! This salad is packed with proteins, healthy fats, and a ton of other vitamins needed for your daily diet!
Power Salad Recipe:
For the salad
- ½ cup of quinoa
- 1 large bunch of kale and spinach (I chop my greens into bite size pieces)
- 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup blueberries
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- 1 avocado
For the dressing
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons of Dijon mustard
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- Cook a half a cup of quinoa according to package. Then transfer to large bowl to cool
- Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a bowl
- Pour dressing over spinach and kale and mix completely
- Once the quinoa is cool, add it to spinach and kale, along with chickpeas, almonds, blueberries, and avocado
- Toss to combine