Pregnancy and Your Feet
Hidden away in socks and shoes at the end of our bodies, our feet are often neglected. Our foot health is often overlooked especially with the excitement of a new arrival on the way. Weight gain and hormonal changes in pregnancy have a huge impact on the body and your feet can often bear the brunt of the major changes which a woman’s body will go through. During the course of pregnancy, most women will put on an extra 10-12kg. In conjunction with this rapid weight gain, our ligaments stretch more which causes the muscles in our feet to stretch more than they’re used to which can lead to a number of different complaints.
During pregnancy, the uterus puts pressure on veins in the pelvis, slowing down the return of blood to the heart. Blood vessels in the feet and ankles are among the smallest in the body which can cause fluid from the veins to leak into surrounding tissues of the legs and feet causing swelling and sometimes throbbing. Feet can increase in size and you may need to wear a larger shoe size.
Tips to avoid and treat swollen feet:
- Elevate your feet as often as possible.
- Wear socks that do not restrict circulation.
- When driving or on long haul flights, ensure you take regular breaks to stretch your legs to encourage circulation.
- Exercise gently.
- Maintain a well-balanced diet, avoiding foods with high levels of salt.
- Swelling is normally similar in both feet. If swelling is not symmetrical in both feet, this may be a sign of a vascular problem and a doctor should be contacted immediately.
Pain in the arch of the foot, heel and other ligaments can occur due to the changes in the foot shape during pregnancy. Due to the inevitable increase in a mother’s weight, the strain on the feet can lead to a reduction in the arch height. This can be due to changes in the joint, ligament and other soft tissue alignment. Commonly, the heels and ball of the feet are painful.
During pregnancy, circulation in the lower body becomes sluggish and this can cause blood to pool in your veins. Pregnancy hormones also have an impact, causing the walls of the blood vessels to relax. This in turn causes the walls of the veins to distend and widen and can lead to enlarged blue or purple twisted veins which are visible under the skin. Often this can lead to cramping in the foot.
Top tips to avoid cramping:
- Again elevate your feet as often as you can..
- Sleep on your side.
- Consume fluids regularly. Dehydration increases swelling.
- Monitor your weight. Excessive weight gain exacerbates swelling and lead to further problems.
- Improve the circulation in your ankles with rotation exercises.
During pregnancy there is an increased level hormones one of these increases the flexibility of collagen, making your ligaments looser so that the pelvis can adapt to childbirth. However, it affects all ligaments, not just those around the pelvis, increasing your chance of sprains or trauma. It is therefore important to wear supportive footwear in order to reduce risk of ankle sprains and other lower limb ligament injuries which could do longer term damage/discomfort.
Top shoe tips for expectant mums:
- Look for shoes with an inbuilt insole that helps to hold your feet in place.
- Make sure there is 1cm between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
- Look for shoes that support and grip your feet.
- Avoid high heels, your body weight is already experiencing increased pressure on your joints with your growing bump. Heels will increase the risks of you falling.
- Avoid wearing completely flat shoes with thin soles as this will not provide enough shock absorption for the extra weight carried.