Treating Fluid Retention in Pregnancy – The Safe Approach

Treating fluid retention

The journey to motherhood is a treasured and beautiful experience. But it’s also of pain, struggle, and lots of adjustments due to the changes in the body. One of these is fluid retention that affects many pregnant women. If you want to know the ways of treating fluid retention, here’s in-depth content about it.

What is Fluid Retention?

treating fluid retention

Also known as “water retention,” it occurs when excess fluids build up in body tissues and cavities. Certain parts of the body accumulate fluids when one or more of the body’s mechanisms that maintain fluid levels experience problems. This leads to fluid retention, otherwise medically known as edema.

Fluid Retention in Pregnant Women

Fluid retention is common in pregnant women. In fact, it affects approximately 65% of expecting mothers, despite them being healthy and having normal blood pressure. Its dominant symptom is the swell up of the legs, feet, hands, chest, and abdomen.

Edema can happen at any time during the pregnancy period. But often, pregnant women experience swelling in their last trimester, and this continues until delivery.

What Causes It?

To support the growing baby, the body systems work harder to circulate blood. At about week 32, the blood circulating in the body increases by 50% more. Along with this, the body also retains more fluids to support the increased blood volume. The extra fluids work to soften the body and prepare it for giving birth. As the baby grows, the uterus also gets heavier, which can decelerate blood flow from the legs back to the heart. All these changes contribute to fluid retention.

You may notice that your feet have increased size or more. They may look like sausages or have the same size as your knees. If it’s your hands that got swollen, the rings you wear become tighter, so you’ll have to take them off for a time.

“Pregnancy swelling” is more pronounced when the day is about to end. Also, during hot days or instances where you stand for extended periods, the swelling gets worse. You can also develop varicose veins due to the decreased blood flow in the legs, so it’s advised to wear a maternity support hose.

Pregnancy can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for some women, but no worries, your body’s normal function will go back soon.


Common symptoms of fluid retention include:

  • Swelling in the affected area (most commonly the feet, hands, and ankles)
  • Stiffness in the joints
  • Changes in skin color
  • Pitting edema (when the swollen area is pressed, there leaves a skin indentation)
  • Puffy or shiny skin
  • Aches and tenderness of affected body parts
  • Weight gain

It’s important to remember that not all cases of swollen feet are due to fluid retention. It may be a sign of preeclampsia, which is a serious problem. Preeclampsia also happens during pregnancy and causes high blood pressure to fluctuate dangerously. Some symptoms of potentially serious health concern are:

  • Severe swelling
  • Sudden swelling in the hands, feet, eye area, and face
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion

Mild swelling is normal and nothing to get worried about. However, if the affected area is terribly swollen and you’re over 20 weeks pregnant, call your doctor to have you checked to ensure you’re not experiencing preeclampsia.

How Osteopathy Help in Treating Fluid Retention

Pregnancy is a unique experience for every woman. This is when osteopathy is beneficial because the treatment is tailored to both the mother and the baby’s condition. The best benefit of osteopathic treatment for expecting mothers is it promotes blood flow and fluid drainage, which address fluid retention.

Osteopaths recognise that all bodily structures and functions are interrelated. Their treatment approach targets the circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems by manipulating and strengthening the body’s musculoskeletal framework.

During the consultation, an osteopath will evaluate to locate the exact position of the swollen area. By using soft tissue manipulation, your osteopath can gauge the condition of the tissues and help the fluids in the body flow smoothly. This is helpful in swollen hands as this treatment lessens the harmful fluid retention around the wrist.

Swollen feet during pregnancy are due to poor circulation of the blood back to the heart. An osteopath can use other manual techniques to treat the lower back, limb, and pelvis to boost blood circulation and fluid drainage.

Each osteopathic treatment is personalised for each pregnant woman. So you can expect that your management plan is customized and tailored only for you. Moreover, not only is it beneficial for fluid retention but other pregnancy-related woes, as well. Osteopathy can help relieve the stresses and pressures in the body brought by the changes of the pregnancy.

Relieving and Treating Fluid Retention During Pregnancy

Fortunately, there are easy home remedies to relieve the symptoms of fluid retention. Before you try any of these, remember to consult your doctor to know which of these apply to you. Since pregnancy experience isn’t the same for all women, some of these may not suit you, or there may be better methods for you.

1. Rest and elevate your feet

Avoid standing for several hours. But if it can’t be avoided, be sure to wear full support stockings and comfortable shoes. Rather than flat shoes, something with a very low heel may help. Then, put your feet up for at least 20 minutes each day.

2. Physical activities

Some light exercises, swimming or yoga, can help reduce swelling, backaches and prevent excess weight. Talk to your physician about some gentle physical activities you can safely do on your own or at home.

3. Reduce salt intake

The body may retain more water if you consume salty foods. Thus, to reduce swelling, check your diet and make sure you don’t overeat foods high in sodium, such as canned or processed foods.

4. Drink lots of water

It may not make any sense to drink more water when your body retains more fluids, but doing so helps the kidneys function well. Rather than restricting your water intake, you should drink more.

5. Increase potassium intake

Potassium helps balance the fluid in the body. Not getting enough of this mineral can make swelling worse. So be mindful and include potassium-rich foods in your diet, like potatoes and sweet potatoes with the skin on. You can also ask your doctor for a prenatal vitamin with extra potassium in it.

6. Sleep on your left side

If you sleep on your left side, you take the pressure of the uterus off of a large blood vessel that returns blood to the heart. So, this sleeping position enhances blood circulation, which decreases swelling of the feet.

When you’re pregnant, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. You can also wear compression stockings for added support and even use topical products to provide relief to swollen areas. These are some of the subtle lifestyle changes you can make to combat fluid retention for the entire nine months.


The whole pregnancy journey is rarely a pleasant experience for expectant mothers, but it’s something unique and memorable. While it’s normal to experience swollen feet and ankles and other changes associated with pregnancy, it’s essential to know what causes them. Since not all swelling is due to fluid retention, the best approach is to visit your doctor and get healthcare advice.

Do you want to talk to an experienced osteopath?

For ways of treating fluid retention, various osteopathic manipulation techniques can treat the problematic area. Do you want to know more about how osteopathy can help with fluid retention? Connect with us at