Pregnancy triggers a myriad of different changes in a woman’s body with many having common complaints of new aches & pains throughout their pregnancy. Foot pain is one of these common complaints.
There are a couple of main reasons why women experience foot pain during pregnancy. Due to the natural weight gain during pregnancy, a woman’s centre of gravity is completely altered. This causes a new weight-bearing stance with added pressure to the knees and feet. Another factor is the naturally released hormones that prepare the body for child birth also cause relaxation of the ligaments in the feet. Women often find they need to go up a shoe size as they current footwear is feeling a little snug!
The most common foot problems that Podiatrists see with pregnancy is over-pronation (flattening of the arch), oedema (swelling) and development of ingrown toenails.
Some women may also experience leg cramping and varicose veins due to weight gain and fluid pressure changes. Because of this, it is important for all pregnant women to learn more about foot and leg health during their pregnancy.
Over-pronation (arch becoming flatter)
Over-pronation is caused when a person’s arch flattens out upon standing and their feet roll inward when walking. This can create stress or inflammation on the plantar fascia, the fibrous band of tissue that runs from the heel to the forefoot.
This can make walking very painful and can increase strain on the feet, calves and back. A combination of weight gain and hormonal changes adds to a change in foot posture.
Management of foot pain from over-pronation:
- Supportive shoes with a good arch support and cushioning
- Customised foot orthotics to reduce strain on the feet
- Exercises to work on strength and stability of the core foot muscles
Oedema or swelling normally occurs in the latter part of pregnancy and results from the extra fluid pooling in the extremities, particularly the legs and feet. It is visible to see the swelling and will feel as though the skin is being pulled with feelings of tightness through the feet and legs. The enlarging uterus puts pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvis and legs causing returning circulation to slow down. When feet are swollen, they can become purplish or pale in colour.
Management of swelling in the feet:
- Elevate your feet as often as possible
- Wearing proper fitting shoes (as shoes that are too narrow or short will constrict circulation)
- Have your feet measured several times throughout your pregnancy as they may change sizes. Often foot size changes permanently following pregnancy
- Wear seamless socks that do not constrict circulation
- Exercise regularly to promote overall health and circulation
- Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated (this helps the body retain less fluid)
- Eat a well-balanced diet and avoid foods high in salt that can cause water retention
Swelling is normally similar in both feet. If swelling is not symmetrical in both feet, this may be a sign of a vascular (blood flow) problem and a doctor should be contacted immediately.
Due to increases in swelling in the feet the shoes can fit more snug and can lead to the development of ingrown toenails. Sometimes they are self limiting during the pregnancy, but other times they can cause ongoing pain and infections. Read more about ingrown toenails here. Ingrown Toenails
Sometimes it may just be a little too hard to reach down to the feet too – if this is the case our friendly Podiatrists can help maintain your toenails and any hard/thick skin so you don’t have to struggle with bending over to reach those feet! Read more about nail and skin care here.
Pregnancy is a special time – you don’t need to persevere with sore feet and legs!
Come and see the experts, Podiatrist’s can help you feel a lot more comfortable walking around for the next 9 months!