Most pregnant women will experience poor circulation—but what can you do about it?
From swollen ankles to numbness and cold hands, many symptoms can be blamed on bad blood flow. Even signs you may not suspect—like fatigue and difficulty concentrating—are a common consequence.
In this post, we’re showing you 9 hacks for poor circulation during pregnancy.
To understand the circulation changes that happen during pregnancy, we first need to know how the system works. The blood in your body flows through a circuit that extends from your heart to all the other parts. The arteries carry the blood out and it travels back through the veins. Arteries and veins are the two most important blood vessel types.
In a normal, healthy person, this blood circuit flows naturally. But during pregnancy, the process we took for granted can start to cause problems, like swelling or numbness.
According to research, circulation problems are extremely common during pregnancy. Up to 80% of expecting women get some form of venous insufficiency. That means that while blood can flow out, it has a harder time flowing back to the heart.
Poor Circulation Pregnancy Signs
If you’re wondering if you’re suffering from poor circulation during pregnancy, it can be easy to tell. The area where the blood is having trouble reaching will react. Here are some common signs of poor circulation:
- Cold hands or feet
- Swelling in hands, ankles or feet
- Tingling hands or feet
- Difficulty concentrating, memory or other cognitive problems
- Pain or Joint or muscle cramping
- Skin color changes
- Varicose veins (these are common during pregnancy)
- Digestive issues
- Leg or feet ulcers
Why Do You Get Pregnancy Circulation Problems?
The reason pregnant women get circulation problems involves changes their body goes through while expecting.
As your baby grows and gets bigger, the heart needs to work harder to pump more blood to support the uterus. This increases blood volume significantly. Want to guess how much? By as much as a whopping 50%. If you picture your body adding that much more blood, it’s understandable why things aren’t working perfectly—it’s a lot to adjust to!
As your journey progresses, new hormones and pregnancy chemicals are circulated in the blood, further adding to the volume. All of this additional pressure can lead to the circuit not flowing as efficiently as it used to.
Poor Circulation Pregnancy First Trimester
As more blood begins to flow through your system, the process starts to slow down. Compared to just a few weeks ago, your blood is travelling at a slower rate. This is when you may notice annoying symptoms for the first time like fatigue or difficulty concentrating. The other poor circulation pregnancy symptoms—like swelling—happen later.
Is Poor Circulation a Sign of pregnancy?
Some women who notice these changes wonder, “is poor circulation a sign of pregnancy?”
Every woman experiences different pregnancy symptoms, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Poor circulation can be a sign of pregnancy. If you start noticing symptoms, like cold hands, it could be for another reason, or it could point to pregnancy. The only way to know for sure is to take a pregnancy test and have your doctor confirm it.
Poor Circulation Pregnancy Second Trimester
Poor circulation during the second trimester is more noticeable. Although you’ll probably leave some symptoms—like morning sickness—behind, they may be replaced by others. For example, you could still get dizzy because of the extra blood being pumped.
You may experience swollen ankles, hands and feet for two reasons: your body is retaining more fluid and your circulation system is working slower.
Since blood flow is increased to all areas, this may also make your vaginal area more engorged and sensitive—possibly leading to an increased libido.
Poor Circulation Pregnancy Third Trimester
At the end of pregnancy, your uterus is getting about one-fifth of your pre-pregnancy blood supply.
All that increased blood could make symptoms more noticeable during your last trimester. Along with swelling, you may also have leg cramping, numbness in hands or feet and develop varicose veins.
How to Improve Circulation During Pregnancy: 9 Hacks
Although your blood flow will start to recover after birth, you don’t want to suffer for 9 months! Try these tips to improve circulation during pregnancy.
#1 Get a Collapsible Stool
The most common and best tip for poor circulation is to elevate your feet. This will help blood flow more efficiently and decrease symptoms like swelling.
Putting your feet up is easy when you’re at home watching tv and can use a footrest or table. But what about when you’re somewhere else?
A collapsible stool is easy to bring along with you to the office or stick in your car when you’re visiting a friend. Just pop it open wherever you’re sitting down and let the blood flow!
#2 Use a Pillow When Sleeping
If you notice poor circulation when you’re sleeping, try using a pillow under your feet. Positioning your legs above your heart can let blood flow more efficiently, making you feel more relaxed from symptoms.
#3 Get a “Leg Elevator”
Instead of using a pillow, a “leg elevator” can prop up your feet higher. These products are generally wedges that you can bend your knee over. Others have an indent in the middle where your leg is supported. Using these types of products when you’re sleeping or laying down can reduce swelling and pain from cramps.
#4 Compression Socks
Compression socks are tight socks designed to increase circulation. They allow the arteries that transport blood to relax. When this happens, blood flows easier and you experience fewer symptoms. They’re particularly a good idea to wear when you’ll be inactive. That includes car rides, sleep, sitting down, bed rest, etc.
Compression stockings can be bought online or at most drugstores.
#5 Prenatal Massage
Massage is known to encourage circulation. Studies show that lumbar massage can enhance blood flow to that area. The pressure used during a session helps blood to move through areas instead of getting stuck. Over time, regular massages can help minimize symptoms.
Although the best results will likely come from a qualified practitioner, you can get your partner to try a few techniques to see if it helps (it’s also a great excuse for a massage!).
Keeping your body moving helps keep the blood flowing! It’s safe for most women to exercise during pregnancy as long as they’re not over-doing themselves. Even if you don’t want to do a full-blown workout, a few leg movements may help circulation.
Read: 11 Easy and Super Fun Pregnancy Exercise Ideas That You’ll Actually Do
#7 Do Something Relaxing
Research has shown that high stress can cause high blood pressure, which causes poor circulation. If you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, this may be a good tip for you.
Take some time in each day—even if just for a few minutes—to do something you find fun. Activities like yoga and meditation have been proven to decrease stress, so they could be a good place to start. Other enjoyable activities like reading, crafting, watching something funny or having a bath can help too.
#8 Wear Looser Clothing
During pregnancy, loose clothes are comfortable but tight ones allow you to show off your baby belly, so it might be tempting. But you should consider skipping it, at least until after pregnancy.
It’s possible that tight clothing can affect circulation. Although it may be unlikely for the average person, if you’re pregnant and already having circulation issues, you might want to try looser clothing.
A tight fit can increase blood flow in certain areas; such as compression stockings. But having your entire body squeezed into clothes can be a bad idea for those with blood flow problems.
#9 Avoid Leg Crossing
During pregnancy, it can be hard to get comfortable, so you might find yourself switching positions frequently. One position you may want to avoid is sitting cross-legged. Although it isn’t normally bad for you, it can contribute to feet and ankle swelling. The pressure may limit circulation and stop the blood flow from reaching these areas. If you’re having signs of poor circulation, try sitting with both legs on the floor or elevated instead.
Summary: Pregnancy Circulation
Poor pregnancy circulation is common, especially as your journey progresses. You may experience symptoms like cold hands and feet, numbness, cramps and swelling. Use the tips on this list to boost blood flow and decrease discomfort. If circulation issues are severe, they should be treated by your doctor rather than home remedies.
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