Many pregnant women experience edema, a condition that occurs when the body’s tissues retain more fluid than usual. Therefore, a certain amount of ankle swelling is common during pregnancy. Pregnant women can take several steps to minimize ankle swelling, which vary from diet and wardrobe changes to keeping the ankles active and elevated. It is when a woman experiences only one swollen ankle during pregnancy that she should see her doctor. The presence of one swollen ankle during pregnancy can indicate a treatable condition such as an ankle injury or a more urgent condition such as preeclampsia.
It’s common to experience ankle swelling during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. This is because many pregnant women experience edema. Edema is a condition characterized by excessive fluid buildup in a person’s tissue.
For pregnant women, factors like water retention and blood chemistry changes cause the tissue to obtain and retain more fluid. Also, a pregnant woman might experience edema when her growing uterus obstructs the blood circulation in her legs. The vena cava, which is the large vein on the right side of the woman’s body, is responsible for carrying blood from the woman’s lower extremities back to her heart. As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the vena cava and slows the blood’s return. This causes the blood to linger and pushes fluid from the veins into the tissue of her ankles and feet.
A pregnant woman can minimize ankle swelling with a combination of elevation, movement, diet, and proper-fitting clothes and footwear. For example, the woman can keep her feet and legs elevated whenever she’s sitting or lying down. She can also refrain from sitting or standing for long periods of time. The pregnant woman should avoid any tight-fitting pants, socks, hosiery, or shoes that can further promote poor circulation. Eating a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water can decrease ankle swelling, too.
While ankle edema is common among pregnant women, generally it is characterized by both ankles being swollen. Typically, only one swollen ankle during pregnancy is not normal. This is especially true if the swollen ankle is painful or the woman experiences calf or leg tenderness.
If a woman experiences only one swollen ankle during pregnancy, she could be suffering from an ankle injury, such as a broken or sprained ankle. She could also be suffering from preeclampsia, which means her blood pressure is high and there is protein in her urine. Preeclampsia can be mild or severe, depending on when in the pregnancy she develops it. The condition only goes away with the birth of the baby, a factor that can cause problems if the woman develops preeclampsia several weeks or even months before her due date. To protect the woman’s health and the health of her baby, she should see her doctor as soon as she discovers the swollen ankle.