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Swollen ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy

It's normal to get some swelling in pregnancy, particularly in your legs, ankles, feet and fingers.

It's often worse at the end of the day and further into your pregnancy.

Swelling that comes on gradually is not 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 needs to be monitored as soon as possible.

Urgent advice: 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
  • heartburn that does not go away when you take antacid medicine
  • feeling very unwell
  • feeling sick (nausea) and being sick (vomiting)

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're pregnant.

Throughout the day the extra water tends to gather in the lowest parts of the body, especially if the weather is hot or 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.

What can help to reduce 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
  • exercise – try to take regular walks during the day or 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 exercise in pregnancy.

Page last reviewed: 19 April 2024
Next review due: 19 April 2027