Pregnancy triggers many different changes in a woman’s body, and can lead to problems that affect your feet and legs. Foot pain is one of these complaints that can often be overlooked. Due to the natural weight gain during pregnancy, a woman’s centre of gravity is completely altered. This causes a new weight-bearing stance and added pressure to the knees and feet. Furthermore, the naturally released hormones that prepare the body for child birth also cause relaxation of the ligaments in the feet.
Hormones increase during pregnancy. Some of these hormones help relax ligaments and other structures to allow a vaginal birth. These same hormones can also relax the ligaments in your feet, leading to flat feet (fallen arches) and over-pronation. This loosening of ligaments can also increase your shoe size during pregnancy. Therefore, you may have to wear a half or whole size larger after you give birth. Your growing womb, baby and breasts contribute to weight gain that causes extra stress on your already compromised feet, especially your arches. It is not uncommon for pregnant women to develop heel pain (plantar fasciitis) because of the extra weight and stress on the arches.
- Try to avoid standing for long periods of time and walking barefoot. Take a break when you can, and sit down and elevate your feet.
- Supportive, properly fitted shoes and arch supports will help; see a Podiatrist to discuss custom orthotics.
Oedema (swelling) is an increase in fluid in the tissues of your body. Swelling in your feet and ankles during pregnancy is very common. It is usually caused by an increase in blood volume that occurs to help you carry extra oxygen and nutrients to your baby. Pregnancy hormones can also cause changes in the blood vessels, which may lead to swelling. You may notice that your shoes become too tight. An increase in foot size due to swelling are common and temporary.
- Do not stand still for long periods of time. Walking gets your calf muscles working, which helps pump some of the extra fluid out of your legs and feet.
- Rest several times a day, elevating your feet as much as possible when sitting down.
- Wear compression stockings to help decrease the swelling.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Try to avoid foods that contain large amounts of salt, as they will increase your fluid retention.
- Rest on your left side. This decreases the pressure on blood vessels and allows more fluid
to move from your legs to your upper body.
- Wear the correct shoe size for your feet.
Your toenails tend to grow faster during pregnancy. This is usually due to increased blood volume and circulation of hormones. Because you are providing nutrients for your baby, the cells in your toenails can sometimes be deprived of an adequate amount of nutrients. This can cause the development of nail brittleness, ridges or grooves that go across your nail, and dark or discoloured lines in the nail bed. A nail might even become loose and fall off. These nail changes will usually go away after your pregnancy.
- Do not wear shoes or socks that are too tight. The extra pressure they put on the skin around the nails may cause ingrown toenails.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. This will help supply the nutrients needed for you and your baby.
- Do not trim toenails too short. Swollen skin can overlap the corners of short toenails, causing ingrown toenails.
- Have someone else trim your toenails or get a pedicure if you are not able to see/reach your feet.
Podiatrists are able to provide a complete assessment of your feet during pregnancy and provide advice and treatment, should it be required.