12.4  Minor disorders in other body systems

12.4.1  Oedema

Important! If you suspect that oedema might be a sign of pre-eclampsia, refer the woman to the nearest health facility immediately.

Swelling of the feet and ankles is very common in pregnancy, especially in the afternoon, or in hot weather. It is due to oedema, the retention of fluids in the body tissues. Under the force of gravity, the retained fluid tends to sink down the body and collect in the feet. Advise the woman to sit with her feet raised as often as possible, to allow the fluid to be absorbed back into the circulatory system. Swelling of the feet is usually not dangerous, but severe swelling when the woman wakes up in the morning, or swelling of the hands and face at any time, can be signs of pre-eclampsia, which is a very serious (even life-threatening) condition.

A woman sits on a chair preparing vegetables. She has her legs resting on a stool to ease the swelling.


Swelling in the feet may improve if the woman puts her feet up for a few minutes at least two or three times a day, avoids eating packaged foods that are very salty, and drinks more water or fruit juices.

12.3.6  Headaches and migraines

12.4.2  Frequency of urination