Swollen ankles, feet and fingers

Ankles, feet and fingers often swell a little in pregnancy as your body is holding more water than usual.  Towards the end of 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 gradual swelling isn't harmful to you or your baby, but it can be uncomfortable.

Avoiding and easing swollen ankles

There are some steps you can take to prevent swollen feet and ankles.  These can also help to ease the discomfort if your feet and ankles are feeling swollen already. Try to:

  • avoid standing for long periods
  • wear comfortable shoes – avoid tight straps or anything that might pinch if your feet swell
  • put your feet up as much as you can – try to rest for an hour a day with your feet higher than your heart, for example propped up with cushions as you lie on the sofa
  • do the foot exercises described below

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 your foot in a circle eight times one way and eight times the other way
  • repeat with the other foot
  • Get more tips on exercising in pregnancy.
  • When swelling can be serious

You should seek medical attention immediately if your face, feet or hands swell up suddenly.  A pregnancy condition called pre-eclampsia can cause sudden swelling like this, although most women with swelling don't have pre-ecplampsia.  If it happens to you, contact your midwife, doctor or hospital immediately.  If you do have pre-eclampsia, you’ll need to be monitored carefully, as the condition can be serious for both you and your baby.

Other signs of pre-eclampsia can include:

  • severe headache
  • problems with vision, such as blurring or flashing before the eyes
  • severe pain just below the ribs
  • vomiting
  • Risk factors for pre-eclampsia include:
  • being aged 40 or older
  • not having had children (nulliparity)
  • a 10-year gap since your last pregnancy
  • a family history of pre-eclampsia
  • having had pre-eclampsia before
  • a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above
  • pre-existing high blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • a multiple pregnancy (having more than one baby)