Mom holding her newborn in the hospital.

7 Remedies for Treating Postpartum Edema

Pregnancy and childbirth result in a lot of changes to your body. The process of growing and developing a new life is no easy feat, so it’s understandable and expected for postpartum recovery to be a process. One of the biggest things that many new mothers notice following their delivery is swelling around the feet, ankles, and up the legs. It can also affect you around the face, belly, and hands. This is called postpartum edema and is a very common occurrence. Postpartum edema will eventually go away on its own, but there are a few things you can do to help expedite the process. To help you begin feeling like yourself again, here are seven remedies for treating postpartum edema.

What Causes Postpartum Edema?

During your pregnancy, your body retains water and increases the production of fluids to facilitate healthy fetal development. This fluid retention is completely normal and gradually increases as your pregnancy progresses. In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, expecting mothers produce about 50% more blood and bodily fluids during pregnancy to help aid development. This can equate to nearly 7 pounds of fluids alone.

Another cause of postpartum edema is fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels. As your baby grows and your body releases more of these hormones, your expanding uterus can increase the pressure on surrounding veins. The more pressure that’s placed on veins and arteries, the slower the blood circulates. This, along with fluid leakages, can contribute to higher levels of swelling.

Expecting these fluid levels to immediately return to normal following delivery is unrealistic. Just as it took time for your body to build up this additional support, it will take time for you to lose it. Postpartum swelling is completely normal and nothing to be concerned about. Swelling will go down gradually when your body releases these extra fluids through either sweating or urination.

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Different Types of Postpartum Swelling

After delivery, most women tend to notice postpartum edema in their legs, feet, hands, and face. However, there are several different types of postpartum swelling that you should be aware of.


Breast Engorgement

This type of postpartum swelling is normal as your body adapts to your baby’s nursing schedule. Breast engorgement occurs when your breasts swell uncomfortably due to increased milk production and is most common a few days following delivery. Breast engorgement can also occur when you discontinue breastfeeding or go through periods where you’re not emptying your ducts regularly. Breast engorgement will go away fairly quickly once you develop a regular feeding schedule.



Hemorrhoids are when one or more veins in the rectum become engorged and painful. This can happen during pregnancy or the strain of delivery. Oftentimes, hemorrhoids are painful and inconvenient, but tend to shrink on their own. If you experience symptoms of a hemorrhoid, such as bleeding after a bowel movement, contact your doctor for treatment options.


Water Retention

The most common type of postpartum edema is water retention. Again, this is due to an increase in pregnancy hormones and is rarely more than an inconvenience. However, if swelling persists or gets worse in the week following delivery, contact your doctor.


Deep Vein Thrombosis

This type of swelling is dangerous and requires immediate medical assistance. Deep vein thrombosis is a type of blood clot that forms in the lower extremities—usually in the calf or thigh. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, a warm feeling where the swelling is, and redness. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any symptoms associated with DVT.

In almost all cases, postpartum swelling is nothing to be concerned about. It is a natural part of the childbirth process and isn’t permanent. However, if you experience symptoms that seem severe or are accompanied by any degree of pain or discomfort, contact your doctor. This is especially important if you experience intense leg pain, ongoing headaches, or swelling that’s localized in one area or side of the body as it could be indicative to high blood pressure or even dangerous blood clots. If you’re concerned or notice symptoms of severe edema, seek medical attention immediately.


7 Ways to Treat Postpartum Swelling

Most women notice that their postpartum edema is more noticeable on hot days or after long periods of being on your feet. As your kidneys regain their efficiency and your body begins to go back to normal, excess fluids are eliminated. While this usually begins to fade about a week after childbirth, some women continue to experience swelling for longer periods of time. To help you expedite this process, consider some of the following ways you can reduce edema.


1. Eat a Healthy Diet

One of the best ways to help your body’s hormone levels readjust to pre-pregnancy levels is to ensure that you’re getting enough essential vitamins and nutrients. You still need additional fuel when you’re breastfeeding, but when you focus on eating a healthy diet that’s rich in protein, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and healthy fats, you’ll help your body flush out unnecessary fluids. Try to avoid processed foods as much as you can, as they contribute to fluid retention and don’t provide much nutritional value. Add onions and garlic to your meals to help boost circulation and always try to eat a balanced diet.


2. Manage Nutrient Intake

To support your healthy, balanced diet, try to manage your consumption of certain nutrients. Increase foods that are rich in potassium, like bananas, avocados, and sweet potatoes as these can help your body regulate fluids. You should also increase consumption of vitamin C through foods like broccoli, tomatoes, and strawberries. Similarly, increase your consumption of vitamin E enriched foods like almonds and wheat germs. Try to get these vitamins from whole foods for the best results, but if you’re unable to, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.

On the contrary, avoid adding extra sodium to your food as salt will increase fluid retention. When cooking, use herbs and spices as an alternative to give your food an extra boost of flavor.


3. Drink Plenty of Water

While it seems contradictory, the more water you drink, the less you retain. When you stay hydrated, you help your body flush out fluids that have been accumulating. You should be drinking enough water so that you’re urinating regularly throughout the day. You know you’re hydrated when your urine is a pale yellow to translucent coloring. If you find it difficult to drink enough water each day, add lemons, grapefruit, lime, or even cucumbers to your water to give it some flavor and a boost of natural diuretics.


4. Engage in Moderate Exercise

Exercise helps to increase circulation throughout your body, which decreases swelling. If you’ve been working out throughout your pregnancy, continuing with moderate exercise is essential to your ongoing recovery. If you weren’t exercising during your pregnancy, make sure that you speak with your doctor prior to starting a new regimen. There are plenty of great ways to engage in postpartum exercises while still spending quality time with your newborn. Check your local gyms or community centers for any mommy and me classes or browse YouTube channels for postpartum workouts. After exercising, take a cold shower to help balance high body temperatures from working out.


5. Elevate Your Feet

While it’s important to move around throughout the day, being on your feet for too long can make it harder for your body to expel additional fluids. Rest periodically throughout the day and try to avoid crossing your legs when you’re sitting down. Instead, put your feet up—literally. When you elevate your feet and legs above your heart, you can boost circulation and help alleviate postpartum edema. Try to do this a few times every day for at least 20 minutes at a time to get the best results.


6. Try Compression Stockings

Compression stockings are another way for you to boost the circulation in your lower extremities. There are several different options available for you to choose from, each of which providing you with different benefits. For the best results, put compression garments on in the morning and keep them on throughout day. They should be snug, but never painful.


7. Enjoy a Massage

A postpartum massage is an excellent way to relax and alleviate swelling. Therapeutic massages help stimulate blood flow and can reduce associated discomfort. Ask your partner for an at-home massage or book a professional therapist at a nearby salon.

Another great way to help reduce postpartum edema is to make sure you’re regularly emptying your breasts. Through a consistent nursing schedule coupled with breast pumping, you’ll reduce breast engorgement and lower swelling. To help you through this process, Byram Healthcare offers a wide variety of insurance covered breast pumps to new and expecting mothers with zero out of pocket costs. Browse our selection of popular breast pumps today to find the best fit for your lifestyle.