Your pregnancy and baby guide

Swollen ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy

It is normal to get some swelling in pregnancy, particularly in your legs, ankles, feet and fingers. It is often worse at the end of the day, and further into your pregnancy.

Swelling that comes on gradually isn't usually harmful to you or your baby, but it can be uncomfortable.

A sudden increase in swelling can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a condition that affects some pregnant women, usually during the second half of pregnancy (from around 20 weeks) or soon after the birth.

Call your midwife, GP or labour ward immediately if you have:

  • a sudden increase in swelling in your face, hands or feet
  • a very bad headache
  • problems with your vision, such as blurring or flashing lights in your eyes
  • severe pain just below your ribs
  • vomiting with any of these symptoms

These could be symptoms of pre-eclampsia, which can lead to serious complications if it's not monitored and treated.

Normal pregnancy swelling

Swelling is caused by your body holding more water than usual when you are pregnant. Throughout the day the extra water tends to gather in the lowest parts of the body, especially if the weather is hot or if you have been standing a lot.

The pressure of your growing womb can also affect the blood flow in your legs. This can cause fluid to build up in your legs, ankles and feet.

Things you can do to avoid and ease swelling

Try to:

  • avoid standing for long periods
  • wear comfortable shoes and socks – avoid tight straps or anything that might pinch if your feet swell
  • try to rest with your feet up as much as you can
  • drink plenty of water – this helps your body get rid of excess water
  • exercise – try to take regular walks during the day or try doing foot exercises

Foot exercises

You can do foot exercises sitting or standing. They improve blood circulation, reduce swelling in the ankles, and prevent cramp in the calf muscles:

  • bend and stretch your foot up and down 30 times
  • rotate each foot in a circle 8 times one way and 8 times the other way

Get more tips on exercising in pregnancy.

Read more about common pregnancy problems.

Page last reviewed: 28/02/2018
Next review due: 28/02/2021