Swollen legs are a common problem during pregnancy. For many women, their legs become more and more swollen as the pregnancy advances. In some women, leg swelling may remain even after giving birth and in many their legs never return to what they were before they became pregnant.
4 reasons to explain why women develop swollen legs during pregnancy:
- Compression by the uterus – As pregnancy progresses, the uterus enlarges. As it enlarges it may press on the main vein in the abdomen, the inferior vena cava.
- Varicose veins – Some women who suffer from varicose veins before pregnancy may find that they worsen as pregnancy progresses. This is also a result of increased pressure in the abdomen that translates to more pressure in the veins of the legs.
- Blood clots in the veins – A venous thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the most serious cause of swollen legs during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a time when women are at an increased risk for blood clots in the veins because of the increased concentration of estrogens in the circulation. A deep vein thrombosis can cause an acutely swollen and painful leg or even swelling of both legs, if the thrombosis is extensive enough.
- Fluid retention – During pregnancy some women become more sensitive to salt and to water and they retain it, getting their legs swollen There are many reasons for fluid retention, some hormonal and some related to nerves. In most instances dependent edema resolves after pregnancy.