Postpartum Water Retention or Postpartum Edema – 3 Effective Natural Treatments You Must Consider!

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Water retention does happen whether you are pregnant or postpartum. It can be isolated (like when there is swelling only in your fingers or ankles). It can also affect the entire body. Any woman who has given birth knows what it is like to have too much water in her body. It means the body is retaining more water than it needs to.

pregnancy water retention swelling in ankles swollen feet
  • 80% of women experience water retention or swelling in pregnancy.
  • Most women continue to have some degree of water retention during the first week postpartum.
  • However, if your swelling is more severe, or if there is still significant water retention after the first week of postpartum, it may be prudent to seek out some form of intervention for Postpartum Water Retention.

What results in postpartum edema?

Many factors contribute to this illness. Your body experiences many changes before, during, and after pregnancy. These modifications may exert pressure on your extremities, causing postpartum feet swelling. The following are some typical reasons for postpartum edema.

Increased uterine size: It will take some time for your uterus to return to normal size after giving birth. Your uterus expands during pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby.

During pregnancy, the veins in your lower body are put under pressure by the gradual growth of the uterus. Fluids are then blocked from returning to the heart. Postpartum edema and fluid retention may then result from this.

Hormones: The hormone progesterone is produced more frequently during pregnancy. Increased progesterone causes the body to retain more water and sodium. After delivery, it will take some time before the extra water in your body drains away.

For some women, the body is not able to efficiently clear out the excess water, and these women look swollen even 2 to 3 weeks after the baby has delivered!

Delivery Process: Pushing during a vaginal birth might increase blood and fluid reaching your extremities. In the postpartum period, this leads to puffiness and edema in addition to the strain brought on by pregnancy.

IV fluids: Postpartum edema is largely brought on by IV fluids. In pregnant women, IVs are used to provide both medication and anesthetic. Your body may accumulate these fluids, resulting in localized postpartum edema. It takes a few days for this to pass.

What are the symptoms of postpartum swelling?

What does postpartum edema look like? Here are a few signs to watch out for:

  • Your hands, feet, and extremities may experience mild to severe swelling and puffiness.
  • The enlarged areas look inflammed, puffy, and glossy.
  • Pressing the enlarged spot, the skin sinks in, leaving a crater.
  • Along with your hands and legs, you could also have swelling in your midsection.

Why do I remain swollen after giving birth?

When you are pregnant, your body starts to swell in the middle of the pregnancy. The swelling worsens in the third trimester and significantly improves within a week of giving birth.

Some mothers who swell in pregnancy do not improve even after delivering the baby. If that is you, you have postpartum water retention or edema in postpartum.

Postpartum water retention is also called postpartum swelling or postpartum edema. These are synonyms for saying there is fluid retention in the body after giving birth.

You may have fluid retention if your ankles, feet, legs, arms, and face are swollen more than usual. If your skin is shiny and feels very tight, then you can almost be certain you are swelling significantly.

For most of us, the swelling might be noticeable but then disappears within a week through the usual channels of elimination – perspiration and urination.

If the swelling is significant, or does not seem to subside even after a week, it is prudent to seek out some form of intervention.

You remain swollen after giving birth due to the following:

  • There are fluids left over from the pregnancy. These fluids had been accumulating all throughout pregnancy and take time to be eliminated from your body.
  • During an epidural or C-section, fluids were given through an IV, which only adds on to the amount of fluid in your body.
  • Because progesterone levels remain high after giving birth, Your body will continue to hold on to water and you will feel swollen.
  • You are often sedentary during the days following the birth of your little one, which only dampens water metabolism.

3 Natural Treatments That Help to Reduce Postpartum Swelling Quickly

Postpartum swelling can’t be completely avoided, but if your water retention takes longer than a week to go away, consider the following:

  1. Lymphatic Drainage: The lymphatic system is usually clogged up in people suffering from water retention. Lymphatic drainage is a very effective way to decongest the lymphatic system and improve the metabolism of fluids in the body.
  2. Acupuncture: Water metabolism can improve even after one session of acupuncture.
  3. Chinese Herbs: Using traditional Chinese medicine in meals is one of the best ways to get rid of water retention after giving birth. Normal confinement herbs may help with swelling, but if you are swelling, you may need additional herbs to address your ailment. For those who opt in for herbal potions (28 days), their herbal potions would be reformulated to take the water retention into account.
Pregnancy Edema Swelling Feet chinese medicine tcm herbs acupuncture lymphatic drainage

How do I know if I have postpartum water retention?

  • A lot of gas, especially in the belly area.
  • Swollen legs, feet, and ankles.
  • The abdomen, face, and hips swell up.
  • Stiff joints.
  • Feeling heavy and sluggish.
  • Swollen and hard lymph nodes in the armpit or groin.
chi nei tsang and Lymphatic drainage for water retention postpartum edema swelling soma clinic

How does lymphatic drainage treat postpartum water retention?

If your body is significantly swollen after giving birth or you have postpartum face swelling, there is almost always some level of lymphatic congestion.

While you may not be able to sense the rate of flow of lymph, you may be able to palpate hard and swollen lymph nodes in the body. The lymph nodes in the armpits and groin are the most easily palpable.

If you have Postpartum Water Retention, the first line of treatment has to be Lymphatic. Lymphatic drainage is the most direct and effective way to reduce postpartum water retention. It does so by getting rid of lymphatic congestion. The end result is that all fluids begin moving like normal again in the body.

How does acupuncture treat postpartum water retention?

Acupuncture is a very effective TCM Postpartum Treatment for water retention. As part of the treatment, the practitioner will needle certain points in the abdomen and extremities. You will often experience significant relief within a day of the treatment.

Acupuncture treats postpartum water retention by stimulating certain nerves which then increase microcirculation and water metabolism in the body.

One acupuncture point used is SP9, a point on the shin just under the inner knee. When SP9 is stimulated, the lymphatic bottleneck is opened up, allowing fluids to flow from the calves and feet up toward the groin and abdomen.

Acupuncture is also helpful when there is not enough breast milk, postpartum C-section scar numbness and tightness and postpartum weight gain.

How do Chinese herbs treat postpartum water retention?

Chinese Herbs are often under-rated as a TCM Postpartum Treatment. You can effectively reduce postpartum water retention by using Chinese herbs. After giving birth, the body is usually very weak. As a result, the bowels move slowly, the lymphatic system moves slowly. Everything is moving very slowly as the body recovers from the intense event of giving birth. Chinese herbs helps to strengthen the system, warm up the body and move and eliminate excess fluids.


Some Chinese herbs help by building Qi and Blood. As Qi and Blood are fortified, the body becomes stronger and is able to effectively eliminate fluids and reduce swelling.

Some Chinese herbs are amazing diuretics, which increase urination. Some of these diuretic herbs include ginger skin, poria, and wolfberry root.

Other Chinese herbs are gentle warmers. These are herbs that gently warm up the body during confinement and are especially helpful for women who feel cold easily when they are not pregnant. Herbs that are gently warm will help the body’s physiology, resulting in the elimination of fluids from the system.

When to visit a doctor

Postpartum swelling can’t be completely avoided, but if your water retention takes longer than a week to go away, consider the following:

  • Pitting edema, which occurs when swelling develops rapidly and is caused by pressing down on a swollen spot, produces an indentation in the skin.
  • If one leg is painful, red, irritated, or swelling has risen, a blood clot may be the cause.
  • Pre-eclampsia symptoms in women include a persistent or recurrent headache, nausea, impaired vision, or sensitivity to light.
  • Chest pain or breathing difficulties may indicate peripartum cardiomyopathy, a potentially serious heart condition.


How can I reduce water retention during breastfeeding?

It’s critical to maintain hydration while nursing. 12 cups (96 fluid ounces) of water should be consumed every day. Your body may flush away any excess water weight by consuming water and other clear liquids. And if you’re attempting to lose weight, stay away from sugary drinks because they are full of empty calories.

How long does postpartum water retention last?

Your body will continue to retain water after giving delivery because progesterone levels remain high. Your hands, arms, feet, ankles, and legs can all be swollen. After birth, edema shouldn’t persist for more than a week.

Consider intervention if the edema persists or if it worsens over time.

Does water retention affect breasts?

Additionally, you could notice that your breasts get quite a bit larger and more delicate. So, if your breasts start to feel painful and firm all of a sudden, that is a sign of water retention.

Is there a natural remedy for water retention?

As mentioned earlier in the article, some herbs and nutritional supplements may act as diuretics which assist with sodium and water clearance. Examples of diuretic herbs: dandelion, ginger, parsley, hawthorn, and poria.

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