During pregnancy, your circulatory system experiences immense changes. Blood volume increases a whole 50% while blood cells are asked to perform new tasks, like delivering the nutrients to your womb and whisking away your baby’s waste. Additionally, your heart will be working double time to pump all of this new blood throughout your veins, which relax during pregnancy to compensate. Because of this, your heart rate should decrease at the beginning of your pregnancy and rise again during the second half.
With all these changes and adjustments, various discomforts arise. These include edema, the collection of excess fluid in your tissue, which leads to swelling, particularly in the calves, ankles, and feet. While mild occurrences of edema are typical in pregnancy, certain exercises, iron rich foods, and proper foot care can prevent more serious health concerns from evolving.
Drinking More Water
The catch all phrase “drink more water” seems to be attached to any and all ailments, but when it comes to improving circulatory conditions, it’s unequivocal. At least 6-8 glasses of safely filtered water are recommended to prevent dehydration, muscle pain and cramps. H2O helps the absorption of essential nutrients and is the main ingredient that allows your blood cells to deliver those nutrients (and prenatal vitamins) to your growing baby. Additionally, copious water consumption will keep urine diluted and UTIs at bay. Did I mention it also reduces constipation?
Targeted Stretches & Massage
As your veins relax to accept all of the new blood cells in your body, the circulation system slows down. To keep things moving along, targeted stretches and exercises like foot rotations, sitting cross legged on the floor, hip sways, and pelvic rocking are all great preventatives to charley horses, leg fatigue, and fluid buildup. If you do experience a charley horse or leg cramp, it’s important to keep the foot flexed (engaging the calf muscle) to relieve the pain. While it may be tempting to point your toes, this often worsens the issue.
Massages that incorporate a rhythmic squeezing and releasing of tissue acts like a pump to push all that nutrient rich blood back up to your heart. Have your partner or a friend knead lower points like the calves and feet, as they will become increasingly difficult to reach as your belly grows.
Iron Rich Foods
Enrich your diet with iron rich foods (and your prenatal vitamin) as well as ingredients that will assist in their absorption. Iron content can be found in dark, leafy greens like spinach, collards, or kale, red meat, poultry, beans, seafood, peas, or dried fruit like apricots and raisins. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption when eaten with your iron rich foods. Fruits and vegetables of this category include grapefruit, tangerines, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, kiwis, strawberries, and melons.
Proper Foot Care
Gravity is ever cumbersome for women, particularly during pregnancy. As your baby and body grows, intense pressure is placed on the ankles and feet. Additionally, your center of gravity changes immensely, causing your stance and gait to place added pressure on your knees. Two of the most common symptoms that arise from this are edema and over-pronation (pressure causes your arches to flatten as the ankle rolls inward to compensate). It is thus paramount for measures to be taken to ensure your comfort, which will ultimately reduce stress on your body, mind, and baby.
The most conservative way to alleviate discomfort is a properly fitted orthotic insert or shoe such as Aetrex or Birkenstock insoles. Select a brand that features well supported arches (all three) and the balls of your feet (metatarsal region) while offering an open and airy toe box that will help keep you cool. It’s also recommended that whichever brand you choose is highly adjustable as your feet change size and shape over the course of the day.
One excellent option is the Kenkoh Massage Sandal. It offers full arch and metatarsal support, while featuring an entire foot bed composed of rubber nodules that give you a gentle, soothing massage while you walk.
These rubber nodules break up calcium deposits as well as lactic and uric acid buildup, allowing the toxins to be carried through your intestines and flushed from the body (as long as you consume proper amounts of water). As a neat aside, many women have reported the reduction of varicose veins and a decline in cellulite on the thighs and buttocks, both of which are actually caused by poor circulation!
Did this article help you? If so, please share with fellow new mommies to understand the benefits of proper circulation during pregnancy.