Ch. 21: Waterlogged

I grow by the day. Its uncontrollable. My abdomen is large, tight like a drum, and filled with a heavy fluid. Fluid is also filling my lower limbs. In fact, by the afternoon of each day I lose sight of what once were my bony ankles and defined runner’s calf muscles. In their place? Water-logged, erm, logs. Don’t tell me I now suffer fluid retention?? Well if the symptoms I am suffering are diagnostic, then – yes.

Fluid retention at 24 weeks along.

Fluid retention at 24 weeks along.

When pressed, the skin does a trick: it holds the indent for a few seconds. This especially unsightly phenomenon is called pitting oedema. I’m not alone (small consolation) – up to 80% of pregnant women suffer from it to a degree. It occurs partly as a result of the extra blood coursing round my body (since I now carry 50% more blood than in my pre-pregnancy state), and the strain that puts on my chugging circulatory system.

In particular, a major vein called the inferior vena cava, which is on the right side of my body, is working very hard. Its job is to carry blood from the lower body back up towards the heart, but all the extra blood, not to mention pressure being put on my pelvic veins by this big growing uterus, tends to make the inferior vena cava less efficient.

The result? Blood pools, and water is then forced down through capillaries towards my long suffering lower legs, ankles and feet. Adding to all this, pregnancy hormones upset all sorts of normal balances, including levels of sodium and potassium – and this leads to fluid being retained, rather than being absorbed and expelled. As I said: waterlogged…

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