Help for Swelling in Pregnancy

photo credit Robert Wróblewski

With the temperatures rising, swelling can be problematic for lots of pregnant women.   Knuckles and ankles bones seem to disappear as the body holds on to more and more fluid.  There is however good news.  There are many things you can do to help those ankles and knuckles re-appear.

Dry Skin Bushing

My favorite, and one that many of my yoga gals have had success with, is a technique called dry skin bushing.  As a side note, most report equal success with dry bushing as well as wet skin bushing right in the shower.  The techniques remain the same either way you chose to do it.  During pregnancy, skin bushing is a great way to keep toxins at bay and to enhance your lymph system, which can become sluggish during this time.

How it works.  By stimulating your lymphatic system, brushing helps to reduce swelling.  One of the jobs of the lymphatic system is the expulsion of toxins and excess water.  Since it often slows down its level of functioning during pregnancy, brushing helps to rev it up, so to speak, and help it to do its job more effectively.

Plus it’s simple and easy to do at home and will give you the same effect as a nice spa treatment.  A brush before a bath or before bed is probably a nice relaxing time to do it. Of course, remember to go very very gently over your belly, and go harder on your legs, arms and buttocks.

•    Brush your feet, toes and soles and then the front and back of your legs. Always brush upwards and towards the groin.

•    Brush your buttocks and lower back using upward strokes. Reach the best you can unless you have someone to help you (and feel comfortable with someone helping).

•    Brush your hands and arms towards your armpits.

•    Brush across your shoulders and down the chest towards the heart (avoid your nipples).

•    Brush the back of your neck with downward strokes.

•    Using a circular, clockwise motion, brush your abdominal and stomach area.

You can find out more about this technique by follow the link below.

After brushing, jump into the shower and alternate between warm and cool water temperatures for 30 seconds each for 3 intervals.  This too will get your lymphatic system really rocking.

Bouncing or Rebounding

And talking about rocking your lymphatic system, let’s talk about bouncing.  This is your chance to be a kid again.  Bouncing on a mini-trampoline is an effective way to get the lymphatic system really humming.  Remember your lymphatic system is your internal garbage collector, it’s the internal vacuum cleaner sucking up metabolic garbage: toxins, infections, and excess fluid from every part of your body including all the organs of the body.  If the lymphatic system becomes impaired, the fluid becomes thick and full of toxins.  The parts of the body that rely on the lympatic system for waste elimination become less efficient and sluggish as they fill with their own waste.  This is one of the reasons that your doctor or midwife will be watching for swelling during pregnancy.  Swelling or edema can be an warning symptom of pre-eclampsia (also known as toxemia) which is a very serious condition involving a general shutting down or dysfunction of the many organ systems within the body.  So let’s focus on prevention and supporting your lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is not connected to the heart, so it has to rely upon some other activity to create the necessary pumping action it needs to circulate. The three most important methods of lymphatic circulation are external massage (this is why the dry and wet brushing work so well)  muscle activity, and vigorous exercise.  During pregnancy, vigorous exercise can sometimes be too much.  So bouncing gently on a mini-trampoline is an awesome alternative.  Start with a gentle bounce where your feet stay in contact with the trampoline as you move up and down.  This small bouncing movement is enough to create the necessary pumping for the lymphatic system. 

For safety sake, please bounce with bare feet or runners so you can good grip on the mat surface.  Aim for 10 minutes of bouncing a day.  If you are experiencing a lot of swelling, increase that to 2 0r 3 session of 10 minutes a day.

Here’s the nitty gritty of how bouncing or rebounding as it’s sometimes known, works.  The major lymph vessels or channels run up and down the body.  That’s why the vertical up and down motion of bouncing is so effective at pumping the lymph fluid.   As your bounce up all the valves close, as you come back down all the valves open.  In this way, you are pumping the fluid through the vessels, increasing the lymph flow as much as fifteen times.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are the natural aromatic medicinal chemical constituents found in botanicals.   Many essential oils can be used safely during pregnancy to support normal healthy body functions.

Lemon essential oil is found in the rind of the lemon fruit.  It is naturally detoxifying and supportive of the lymphatic system.  Putting a drop of lemon essential oil into each glass of water that you drink is an easy and tasty way to support your lymphatic system.

Always follow up your dry/wet brushing and bouncing by drinking a big glass of water with lemon essential oil.  I know that sounds strange as the problem is excess water, but somehow more water coming in, helps you body release the water it’s holding in the body tissues.   Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces each day.   So if you weight 180 pounds, drink 90 ounces of water each and every day.

Additionally you can use a blend of essential oil topically on the areas where the swelling is the worst.   Put three drops of Geranium, Ginger, Lemon and Lavender in a 10ml roller bottle and top with fractionated coconut oil.  Roll this blend directly on ankles, feet and hands a few times a day and especially at the end of the day when swelling tends to be the worst.

Side note : Not all essential oils are created equal.  If you are using lemon oil internally please make sure your lemon oil is food grade and safe for internal use.   Please use essential oils that are good quality and absolutely pure.  One of the issues is that there is no regulation or standard in the industry, which means that you could buy an oil from a health food store and the bottle could say that it is 100% pure, however it could be mostly synthetic and there is no one to tell you otherwise.  Most of the essential oils on the market are actually a mix of synthetic oils because they are much cheaper to produce.  Good quality oils are generally pricey – but truly they are worth every penny.

My favourite oil brand is DoTERRA essential oils because they have created a great standard for purity and potency called Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade or CPTG.  – for an oil to be considered CPTG it must be sourced where it grows naturally as the soil, climate and everything else about the plant’s natural habitat create an oil with a high level of potency.  Additionally every litre of oil undergoes multiple 3rd party testing to insure that it actually is PURE.  This is absolutely critical – DoTERRA oils undergo 6 different tests, including mass spectrometry and gas chromatography to ensure the purity (free from fillers, chemicals, artificial ingredients, and free from any contaminants such as  pesticides, herbicides, or any other chemical residues) and potency (the presence of active chemical compounds at optimum levels).  They run these tests for one hundred and forty minutes, much longer than any other company on the market, ensuring that they will catch any and all compounds in the oil – either good or bad.  And if this 3rd test testing reveals any “bad” compounds – the oil is not purchased by the company.  Using a good quality oil, like the DoTERRA essential oils will help you get the most benefit from your essential oil use.

Personally I found the DoTERRA brand so superior that I stopped using any other brands.   Learn how to get essential oils at 25% off.

Helpful Tea and Foods

Nettle leaf herb tea, which has a multitude of health benefits, also helps with fluid retention.  Drinking a cup a day during your pregnancy will help keep you moving freely and easily.  As an aside, the nettle plant is often referred to as a powerhouse of nutrition. The tea is also a great source of calcium, iron, and folic acid.

Then sit yourself down and enjoy a great big slice of watermelon.  Watermelon is packed with phyto-nutrients which promote good lymphatic function.  Plus it is ready available at this time of year and delicious!

Many health professionals believe that swelling can be influenced by an imbalance between the amount of protein, salt and calories during pregnancy.  For example, when we sweat, we lose salt and minerals as well as water.  Talk with your care provider (that’s your doctor or midwife) about your diet.  You may need to tweak some areas in order to better support your body’s needs.  In addition, you might like to check Dr. Brewer’s diet for pregnancy.  Dr Brewer was an MD who began practicing medicine in the 1950’s.  He was one of the first to see the link between diet and preeclampsia/HELLP syndrome. Many care providers still recommend his nutritional guidelines today.  You find Dr. Brewer’s guidelines here 

photo credit Robert Wróblewski

Body Work

Sometimes the swelling can be caused by a compression or mis-alignment in the spine. It often happens late in pregnancy, as the growing uterus throws the hips forward and makes the upper back ‘curve around the breast area’—causing you to  unconsciously slump your shoulders.  Think about standing straight, throwing her shoulders back and tucking your ‘wings’ or shoulder blades into back pockets-like in a pair of jeans.  Sometimes in pregnancy some of the rib heads came become a little out of joint and causing the restrictions that make hands and wrists swell, especially during the night.  Treat yourself to some bodywork, chiropractic treatment or massage.  Just be sure to find someone familiar with the pregnant body.


In addition, there are some great yoga positions that you can do with the wrists and ankles which create more spaciousness in the joints.  This series of stretches is sometimes referred to as the Pawanmuktasana series.  You can find an explanation and examples for these stretches by following the link below.

One very helpful posture is legs up the wall or Viparita Karani

  • Place bolster or several pillows several inches from wall
  • Sit sideways on bolster or pillows
  • Hands on mat in front of bolster or pillows
  • Bend elbows and lay torso on mat
  • Shift lower hip closer to the wall
  • Roll onto back
  • Top of bolster or pillows rest just under lower ribs
  • Arms out to sides with palms up

And finally there are some homeopathic remedies which are effective in reliving swelling, however it’s always best to contact a qualified homeopath before taking any remedy to ensure that you have the one best suited to your individual symptoms and body type.

As a final note, none of this information replaces sound medical advice.  While a certain amount of swelling in pregnancy is considered normal.  More extensive swelling in pregnancy can be a serious health issue as it serves as a warning signal that your body is struggling.  The more severe the swelling, and if the swelling starts to occur in your hands or face, generally the more the body is struggling.  All of the above techniques can definitely help, however please consult with your doctor or midwife in order to ensure the best health for you and your baby.


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