It’s true that pregnancy can change your body in weird and random ways—and yes, that includes your feet and ankles swelling up to where they’re nearly unrecognisable.
Just ask Jessica Simpson, who’s dealing with some serious swelling right now.
The 38-year-old is pregnant with her third child, and she shared a photo on Instagram Thursday night of her severely swollen foot and ankle. “Any remedies?! Help!!!!” she captioned the shot.
Fans were quick to come to her rescue, offering up remedies in the comments, like telling her to elevate her feet above her heart, wearing compression stockings, and soaking her feet in Epsom salts. Which, fine, but…are her super swollen feet and ankles normal??
So what’s going on with Jessica’s swollen feet and ankles?
Apparently, Jessica (and her fans) can breathe a sigh of relief: “This is very normal,” says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a minimally-invasive gynecologist in Dallas.
Foot and ankle swelling is pretty common during pregnancy due to fluid retention, hormonal changes, and pressure from your uterus on your veins which impairs the return of blood to your heart, says Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. “The reason why you see it more in the feet is just from gravity—that’s where the body tends to hold extra fluid,” says Shepherd.
If you’re dealing with this, like Jessica, there are a few things you can do to try to make the swelling go down: propping your feet up with pillows while you sleep, avoiding standing for long periods of time, resting or sleeping on your left side, and wearing compression stockings or support hose, says Greves.
Foot and ankle swelling also tends to be worse at the end of the day since most women are on their feet, so propping your feet up on a coffee table or chair whenever you can is also helpful, says Shepherd. “Your diet can also contribute,” she says, which is why she recommends limiting your caffeine and sodium intake—both of which can make your body retain water.
But that’s a lot of swelling. Is there any reason to be worried and see a doctor?
While, yes, foot and ankle swelling is super normal during pregnancy, it can also be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious and potentially fatal pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure. (Other signs include excess protein in your urine, high blood pressure, headaches, blurred vision, and upper abdominal pain, per the National Institutes of Health.)
Just a few months ago, Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kenya Moore shared a photo of her swollen feet on Instagram and revealed that she was diagnosed with preeclampsia after previously laughing off her symptoms. She ended up having to deliver her baby early. Beyonce recently revealed she had preeclampsia during pregnancy, too.
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I made fun of my swollen feet at @cynthiabailey10 party. Next day my tests came back for possible preeclampsia… I gained 17 lbs in ONE week due to severe swelling and water retention, high blood pressure, and excess protein in urine. This is NOT normal! I took more tests. Baby is fine but if they come back higher #babydaly will have to come same day. Staying positive. To my pregnant sisters please go to your visits and tell the doctor of any drastic changes. Thank God I have great doctors.?? #babydaly #highrisk #love #family #miraclebaby #kenyamoore #babybump #pregnantover40
So, at what point should you (or Jessica) talk to a doctor about this? It’s a good idea to bring it up during your next visit regardless, but “you’ll want to see your doctor sooner any time it’s a rapid change,” says Greves. (Meaning, your feet look fine one day and suddenly inflate the next.)
Also, if you have swelling along with a headache and visual changes—along with the foot and ankle swelling), you should see a doc right away. “Don’t wait if you’re not feeling right, if you’re short of breath, if the swelling hurts, or if one side or the other hurts,” says Greves.
But most of the time, foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy is more of a nuisance than a life-threatening issue. The best thing to do is to have a close, open relationship with your ob-gyn and alert her anytime something feels off. Hopefully, Jessica is doing just that.
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