Merck Manual

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Some Causes and Features of Swelling During Late Pregnancy

Some Causes and Features of Swelling During Late Pregnancy


Common Features*


Normal (physiologic) edema

Painless swelling (edema) in both legs that may decreases when the woman lies on her left side

A doctor’s examination alone

Swelling and pain in only one leg or calf

Often tenderness, redness, and warmth in the affected area

Sometimes risk factors for deep vein thrombosis

Doppler ultrasonography of the affected leg to check for a blockage in the veins

Sometimes a blood test to measure a substance released from blood clots (called D-dimer)

If the woman has chest pain and difficulty breathing, sometimes CT of the chest or ventilation/perfusion (nuclear lung) scanning Chest Imaging

Swelling in both legs

Shortness of breath and fatigue

Difficulty laying flat

Chest x-ray



Swelling in both feet and sometimes in the face and/or hands

No tenderness, redness, or warmth in the swollen areas

Sometimes headache, confusion, blurred vision, nausea or vomiting, or a reddish purple rash of tiny dots (which indicates bleeding in the skin)

Sometimes risk factors for preeclampsia

Measurement of blood pressure

Measurement of protein in the urine

Blood tests to check liver and kidney function and a complete blood count

Swelling in one leg or calf and tenderness, redness, and warmth in the affected area

Possibly pitting of the affected skin (resembling an orange peel)

Often affecting a relatively small area

Sometimes fever

Sometimes a doctor’s examination alone

Sometimes ultrasonography to rule out deep vein thrombosis

* Features include symptoms and results of the doctor's examination. Features mentioned are typical but not always present.

† Although a doctor's examination is always done, it is mentioned in this column only if the diagnosis can sometimes be made by the doctor's examination alone, without any testing.