Can pregnancy exacerbate lymphoedema?
Very little research has been carried out regarding the effects of pregnancy on lymphoedema however there are a few facts that can help us navigate the question.... can being pregnant exacerbate it? Furthermore, is it is going to affect your unborn child?
So let's look if lymphoedema can be exacerbated during pregnancy and at the possible reasons why lymphoedema is predominantly a women's condition with evident cause linking it to gender. It is not really known if hormone changes can be responsible for lymphoedema but there is a growing body of evidence that a hormonal imbalance in the body can contribute to its development (Garmy-Susini, 2019). Garmy-Susini also cited Morfoisse et al., who established the crucial role of female hormones on the lymphatic tissue and found that the development of secondary lymphoedema, is not only a side effect of surgery during a cancer treatment but also a side-effect of hormone therapy.
It appears that eating disorders can also be responsible for hormone imbalances. Of course, during pregnancy a mum-to-be would put on weight and this is normal. However, it should remain within the norm. According to Queensland Health, a woman should expect to gain 1 to 1.4 kilograms in the first three months, then 1.5 to 2 kilograms each month until birth, which is between 10 and 13.5 kilograms. The difference would depend on your original weight and stature. Regarding lymphoedema, clinical studies have provided evidence that obesity is a significant risk factor for the development of lymphoedema, as it impairs lymphatic function and lymph transport capacity and promotes deposition of more fats. (Babak, J., Mehrara & Akin, 2014) .
There are risks of developing or exacerbating lymphoedema during pregnancy but not necessarily and it is unlikely that you pass it on to your baby. I would suggest that you talk to your doctor or lymphoedema therapist if you experience anxiety about your pregnancy or if you develop symptoms. Lymphatic drainage massage can help you with anxiety, lymphoedema, venous insufficiency and fluid retention and your compression garment will also help as swelling is common for pregnant women.
Lipoedema and primary lymphoedema such as Meige disease on the other hand, are genetic conditions, which can start at various stages in a woman’s life like puberty, pregnancy and menopause and it can eventually be passed on to the next generation (Jones, 2012). The good news is that in the event of this happening, your baby's condition is recognised and managed early.
Pregnancy is such a joyful time in a woman's life. You need to keep a positive attitude, eat well, sleep well. concentrate on the miraculous changes occurring in your body and the new life forming. If you have an effective lymphoedema treatment program already, you can focus on this new stage of your life and enjoy this precious time. If you have any questions or would like assistance with drainage or compression during pregnancy or after the birth of your baby please don't hesitate to give me a call.
Babak, J., Mehrara, & Akin, K. G. (2014). Lymphedema and Obesity: Is There a Link? US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393748/
Garmy-Susini, B. (2019). Hormone therapy outcome in lymphedema. Aging (Albany NY). doi:10.18632/aging.101772
Jones, S. (2012). Lymphoedema and pregnancy. LymphLine. Retrieved July 12, 2021, from https://www.lymphoedema.org/information/useful-articles/lymphoedema-and-pregnancy/