W: What Is Water Retention?

04/03/2010 21:29 | Updated 22 May 2015

Water retention, or oedema, is a very common side effect of pregnancy and is an accumulation of fluid caused by sluggish circulation.

Fluid accumulates when the blood vessels near to the skin expand. This causes an increased blood flow, which in turn encourages fluid to move into the tissues and remain there.

It is most common in the second and third trimesters, but can be experienced at any point during pregnancy. It is usually worse during the hot summer months.

Water retention is an uncomfortable nuisance rather than a serious issue. However, it is important to keep an eye on the condition as any new or rapid swelling could be a sign of pre-eclampsia, an extremely serious condition that can be fatal to both mother and baby.

There are steps that can be taken to manage the severity of oedema. These include drinking plenty of fluids; taking short brisk walks to stimulate good circulation; raising the feet when resting; and wearing loosely fitting shoes and socks, or wearing support tights.

Additionally, some foods contain natural anti-diuretic properties, and including these in the diet may help to manage the bloating and swelling. These foods include onion, celery, peppermint, garlic and herbal teas.

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