Lipedema and Pregnancy

If you’ve already done some research into Lipedema, you’re probably aware that there’s no definitive cause. Some women believe they have it because it’s hereditary, which is definitely true in some cases. But there are also incredibly strong links between Lipedema and hormonal changes in the body. This is the second blog in a three part series about the consequences of hormonal changes on Lipedema. This blog will focus solely on Lipedema and pregnancy.

What is Lipedema?

Lipedema is a common condition, but is often misdiagnosed. It is found almost exclusively in women and results in the enlargement of affected limbs due to abnormal deposits of fat under the skin. Women of any weight can develop Lipedema and the fat associated with the condition is resistant to traditional weight loss methods.

There is currently no cure, but conservative measures can be used to alleviate symptoms and slow the progression. Over time, without proper management, mobility may be reduced resulting in a poor quality of life for sufferers. This explains why many women with Lipedema suffer from mental health issues such as depression and body dysmorphia.

Will my Lipedema get worse with pregnancy?

Many women with Lipedema worry that their symptoms will worsen throughout pregnancy. I know this is something that crosses my mind. I am 31 and while I have no plans to have children at the moment, it worries me sometimes that a future pregnancy could accelerate my symptoms.

Lipoedema UK carried out a survey in 2014, discovering that 9% of the women taking part reported the first symptoms of the condition during pregnancy or after childbirth. However, when considering whether pregnancy itself will cause Lipedema symptoms to become more prominent, there’s no real answer. Frustrating, I know.

Many women on social media, including Facebook groups and on their Instagram accounts devoted to the condition, report that their Lipedema symptoms were accentuated during their pregnancies. Some experience an expansion of their affected limbs, even areas that were previously unaffected became larger.

It’s not all as scary as it seems. Other women have undergone several pregnancies without any significant change in the physical appearance of their legs or arms, or an increase in pain, discomfort or mobility issues.

Lipedema and pregnancy

Managing Lipedema symptoms while pregnant

Being overweight while pregnant can increase the risk of serious pregnancy related symptoms, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure. Therefore, even without Lipedema, it’s always recommended that pregnant women avoid excessive weight gain by following a healthy, balanced diet and try to remain as physically active as possible. Obviously, some weight gain during pregnancy is expected.

Pregnant women with Lipedema should carry out various conservative measures in order to avoid prevent fluid build-up and the progression of the condition:

  •  Elevate legs as much as possible and drink plenty of water.
  • Continue with light to moderate exercise as long as you can, for example pilates or swimming.
  • Wear compression garments regularly. Many compression brands offer maternity ranges with expandable stomach panels.
  • Thigh-high compression garments should be worn during delivery, especially if the woman is having intravenous infusions or a caesarean.
  • Ask medical staff to administer injections such as Syntocinon in another area of the body rather than the thigh if this may cause you pain or discomfort.

Woman with Lipedema elevating legs while pregnant

Making medical staff aware that you have Lipedema

It’s vital to be honest with health care professionals about your Lipedema diagnosis. We often feel embarrassed and ashamed of our bodies, but we shouldn’t be. Especially during pregnancy. It is after all a completely natural process. Both patients and medical staff need to raise the issue of Lipedema and pregnancy at the earliest stage possible so any concerns can be addressed.

Unfortunately, this might mean educating the doctors or nurses on what Lipedema is. As always, you should come armed with lots of information and resources, you could even show them this blog post. See my other blog ‘How to get a Lipedema diagnosis’ for more tips on how to educate medical professionals about Lipedema.

Once everyone is aware of your Lipedema diagnosis, symptoms and any concerns you might have, the specific requirements can be implemented into a birthing plan so every member of the medical team you deal with is aware of your situation.

Pregnancy can be a stressful time as it is, without the added pressure of worrying about Lipedema. Try to remember that stress is bad for the baby and some things are completely out of our control. All you can do is follow the conservative measures that work for you and your body and try to enjoy the time before your little one arrives!

Disclaimer: My blogs talk about Lipedema, diet, surgery and much more. I’m talking from my point of view to help women, and remind them they are not alone. I am not a medical professional, so the content above is from my own perspective with research I have done into the topic. It’s not meant as medical advice, you should always consult your doctor or a specialist for both your diagnosis, and a treatment plan.

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