Swelling After Childbirth – Is Postpartum Edema Temporary or Permanent?

Swelling After Childbirth – Is Postpartum Edema Temporary or Permanent?

Have you recently become a proud mama? Then you might be one of those many women who experience swelling in the body, especially in the leg and face. Why this postpartum swelling occurs and how you can deal with it, we will discuss all this in below story.

Postpartum Edema

Among many physical changes, you might have experienced swelling during the pregnancy phase known as edema. But for many women continuation of this swelling post-pregnancy would not seem fair as they would expect their life back to normal. Postpartum edema also known as peripheral edema takes place right after childbirth and can come in the form of swelling on the face, ankles and sometimes on hands and feet as well.

The swelling can sometimes be painful and make a woman uncomfortable. The condition is very common in women.

What causes postpartum swelling?

During the gestational period, the body tends to produce 50 percent more blood or fluid to meet the requirement of the baby and placenta it feeds from. All this extra fluid is necessary to keep your body soft and provide adequate cushioning to your baby. The additional fluid is also required to prepare the pelvic tissues and joints for the stretch that comes with the labor and delivery.

There are other reasons why this could happen. Here are some of them:

Hormones – Progesterone hormone is released in huge quantities during the pregnancy phase. The hormone can make the body retain sodium and water which can result in swelling in different parts of the body.

Expansion of the uterus – The uterus continues to expand during the pregnancy and this puts strong pressure on the adjacent veins causing the retention of fluid in the body.

Intravenous fluids – In certain cases, intravenous fluids are administered during the labor phase to prevent the woman from dehydration. However, this can result in inflammation in the body and it mostly occurs after c-section delivery.

Milk buildup – In many cases, milk accumulates in the breasts and can affect the nerve endings there creating a painful situation for the woman. This can cause swelling around various parts of the body.

Delivery process – The labor and delivery causes natural pressure on the body causing swelling. Moreover, the efforts of giving birth through pushing draws up more fluid to the extremities, hence, cause swelling.

Signs to watch out for postpartum edema

The swelling on the face, hands and feet can be mild to extreme. Check if your:

  • Skin sinks when you press it
  • Skin on the body parts appears to be inflamed, shiny, stretched and puffy
  • Abdomen is also affected by swelling

Does swelling reduces on its own?

You don’t need to panic in case you experience swelling on your body. Just relax as general swelling is normal post pregnancy. However, check below things as swelling subsides:

  • Swelling in areas such as hands, face, legs, lower back and feet should reduce within a week
  • Increased urination since the body expels the retained fluid steadily
  • The extra fluids shall be expiated in the form of sweat

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Things you can do for the treatment of post pregnancy edema

Swelling after pregnancy is generally a natural process so it does not need any kind of medical treatment. However, you need to talk to doctor if the situation becomes worse as it could be a signal to other health complications such as postpartum preeclampsia. Meanwhile, you can try following things at home to reduce your swelling:

Drink water

This might seem unreasonable and counterintuitive to the discussion, but more you stay hydrated post-pregnancy, more are the chances of reducing the swelling quickly. This is because dehydration can make the body retain extra fluid. Water expels waste products via kidneys and keeps things in the body up and working, eventually helping in speedy recovery.

Elevate your hands and feet

Improving circulation in the body can help reduce swelling in the body. This can be done by elevating hands and feet above the heart level as this encourages the flow of water across the body. Moreover, one should also reduce blood flow to the feet by avoiding restrictive positions such as sitting crossed legs or standing for too long.


A soothing massage on the affected body parts helps improve blood flow and ease swelling. Ask your partner to give you a gentle massage starting from the bottom and going upwards. Grape seed oil is considered the best in this respect.

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes

Avoid clothing that is not tight around your wrists and ankles. Try wearing comfortable shoes that do not squeeze your feet.


Indulging in moderate activities and exercises can help in your blood flow and remove extra fluids out of your body. Yoga, walking and pilates are some of the best ways to do that. Even simple cardio exercises is a good approach to get back in shape. But you must consult your doctor before you begin any kind of exercising.

Eat foods rich in potassium

Sodium and potassium works in conjunction and our body requires a balance of both of them. Bananas, spinach, apricots, yogurt and peanut butter to get maximum potassium.

Eat foods rich in protein

In certain cases, low protein might be the reason for increased swelling. Start adding protein-rich foods to your diet including meat, poultry, legumes and eggs to prevent excess of swelling.

Eat fruits

Many of the fruits contain anti-inflammatory properties. Fruits also increases metabolism, gives you proper nutrition and immunity so that you can heal quickly.

Other tips

Some other ways to deal with the swelling include:

  1. Say no to processed and fast food
  2. Take plenty of rest
  3. Soak your feet in warm water
  4. Replace caffeinated products with drinks such as herbal tea
  5. Avoid salty foods
  6. Avoid bath lotions in case your stitches have not healed
  7. Use cold compresses on the swollen areas

When you should call the doctor?

Though postpartum edema is not a serious condition that demands medical attention, yet you need to be cautious if:

  • Swelling lasts for several weeks
  • Swelling comes suddenly
  • Severe pain, irritation, redness or increased amount of swelling in one leg, indicating blood clot
  • Chest pain or problem in breathing, this could be sign of impending heart failure
  • Continuous headache, blurred vision or sensitivity to light


Many women think that they can never get back to their pre-pregnancy size, but this is just a hoax. The swelling in the body is a normal post-birth process that occurs due to excessive fluid buildup during pregnancy. This will naturally come back to normal after a few weeks.

There is nothing to worry about postpartum swelling as motherhood comes with a lot of challenges and this is one of the less severe of them. So, stay calm and manage your pain by following above mentioned tips.


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