Hang around with enough moms and, at some point, the conversation will turn to pregnancy “cankles.” These are the swollen calves and ankles many pregnant women endure, especially during the last trimester

When I was pregnant with my first child, I worked full-time. After a day at my desk, I’d notice indentations in my calves from my socks. I was pregnant with my second child during the hottest Midwest summer in decades and experienced even worse swelling. At nine months pregnant, when I could barely put on my athletic sandals, I started wearing socks and running shoes all the time to keep the swelling in check.

This is all completely normal, of course. The extra fluid your body produces and retains during pregnancy contributes to swelling throughout your body. A few weeks after you deliver your baby, it will probably go away.

“I remember being delighted by how normal my feet looked after you were born,” my mother told me once.  Sure enough, after I delivered each one of my children, my feet and legs were back to their normal appearance. But pregnancy swelling can be disconcerting.

You should always mention pregnancy symptoms, like swelling, to your health care provider, to keep her abreast of your health concerns. And because extreme swelling during pregnancy can be a sign of a more serious condition, you should contact your doctor immediately if you have severe or sudden swelling, swelling in only one leg, or pain and tenderness in a swollen area.

There are several things you can do to mitigate normal pregnancy swelling:

Try to avoid standing for long periods of time. If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet, ask about sitting on a stool for parts of the day. Or, focus on moving around as much as possible. Rotating your ankles and lying down with your legs elevated can help after work. Sleep on your left side if you can and consider elevating your legs with pillows.


I found that the more active I was, the less swelling I experienced. The very best exercise for me was swimming laps. I’d get out of the pool and the swelling would be gone. Yoga, dance, walking and other exercises are equally beneficial.

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of fluids—about 10 cups of water or other healthy beverages a day, according to the Institute of Medicine.

The good news is that like so many pregnancy symptoms, swelling won’t last forever. Hang in there, and good luck with your pregnancy.

You might also enjoy:
Flying When Pregnant: What To Keep In Mind
Everything You Want To Know About Prenatal Yoga


Katie Ginder-Vogel is a freelance writer and editor based in Madison, WI. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in English from Stanford University. An avid runner, hiker, and swimmer, Katie writes regularly about health and wellness. She has two children and a dog, who keep her company on the trail, on the road, and in the pool.