■ 3rd trimester

At times, you may feel swollen while you're pregnant. Swelling (edema)

is common during pregnancy when your body tissues accumulate more fluid due to dilated blood vessels and increased blood volume. Warm weather can aggravate the condition.

During the last three months of pregnancy, about half of the pregnant women notice their eyelids and face becoming puffy, mostly in the morning. This is due to fluid retention and dilated blood vessels, which are expected in pregnancy. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, almost all women have some swelling in their ankles, legs, fingers or face. By itself, swelling is annoying but not a serious complication.

■ Prevention and self-care for swelling If you have problems with swelling:

• Use cold-water compresses on swollen areas.

• Don't cut back dramatically on salt, although easing off on pretzels with rock salt might be a good idea. Although you may be advised to limit sodium to help with fluid retention, cutting back drastically on salt will cause your body to conserve sodium and water, which can make swelling worse.

• To relieve swelling in your legs and feet, lie down and elevate your legs for an hour in the middle of the afternoon. Using a footrest also may help.

• Swimming or even standing in a pool may provide some relief. Water pressure will compress your ankles, and your uterus will float just a bit, easing the pressure on your veins.

■ When to seek medical help for swelling

If you experience a sudden swelling of your face and hands — especially if you find you aren't urinating as often as usual — contact your health care provider immediately. Swelling in the face, especially around the eyes, may occasionally be a sign of preeclampsia.

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