Foot Health and Pregnancy

“Pregnancy ain’t a sickness” is a line the older heads often use, and they can be considered experts in this area, given many of them had 9 – 13 children. Fast forward to present times, and you would realise that many people are opting for between 1 – 3 children since pregnancy could be an expensive process. However, while it isn’t a sickness, during the period certain ailments/diseases can come on, some of which leave while some become continuous.

Having as pleasurable an experience as possible, along with hoping for a healthy baby are the things you have in mind. You certainly don’t want to have to worry about if your feet are going to swell, or if you are going to suffer with back problems. Pregnancy can lead to problems that affect your feet and legs, and there are things you can do to avoid or lessen them. Here are the causes, treatments and preventive tips for common foot problems during pregnancy.

Flat Feet

Hormones increase during pregnancy and with that the ligaments and other structures relax. This can sometimes lead to flat feet (fallen arches) and over-pronation. This loosening of ligaments may also increase your shoe size during the period, and you may have to use a half or whole size larger after giving birth.

Weight gain causes extra stress on your already compromised feet, especially your arches. It is not uncommon for pregnant women to develop metatarsalgia (ball of the foot pain), and or heel pain (plantar fasciitis) because of the extra weight; balance problems can also occur. Supportive, properly fitted shoes and orthotics (arch supports) are a good place to begin.


Edema (swelling) is an increase of fluid in the tissues of your body. Swelling of the feet and ankles during pregnancy is usually the result of the extra blood volume that is circulating to help carry oxygen and nutrients to your baby. You may notice that your shoes have become too tight … it’s temporary. If you notice swelling in your face, around your eyes, and if it happens very suddenly, these could be signs of pre-eclampsia (a medical condition in which hypertension arises in pregnancy and protein can be found in the urine).

Leg Cramps

These usually involve painful spasms of the calf. It is not clear why pregnant women are more prone to getting them. It may be due to changes in calcium concentration, tired muscles (due to extra weight gain), or pressure from your growing womb on the blood vessels and nerves. Leg cramps tend to be experienced most during the second trimester. They can occur both day and night, but are mostly at night.

Varicose Veins

They are veins that have become enlarged and usually stick out above the surface of the skin. They may look like twisted, purple cords or strings. Increased blood volume and pregnancy hormones cause changes in the blood vessels which may lead to varicose veins. They are also a result of the weight of your growing womb and baby putting pressure on blood vessels. Varicose veins are common in the legs, but can also occur in the rectum (hemorrhoids).

Toenail Changes

Your toenails tend to grow faster during pregnancy because of the increase in blood volume and circulation of hormones. Prenatal vitamins can also help to improve the overall health of your hair and nails. However, as you are providing nutrients for your baby, the cells in your toenails can sometimes be deprived of an adequate amount of nutrients, which may cause you to develop nail changes such as brittleness; ridges or grooves that go across your nail; or dark, discoloured lines/streaks in the nail bed. A nail might even become loose and fall off. These nail would usually return to normalcy after your pregnancy.

Treatment and Prevention

  • Do not stand still for long periods of time. Walking is an excellent form of exercise and gets your calf muscles working. It helps pump some of the extra fluid out of your legs and feet while helping to push the blood back to your heart.
  • Elevate your feet as much as possible when sitting.
  • Wear compression stockings to help decrease the swelling. Knee-high stockings are good, but thigh-high stockings are even better.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Try to avoid foods that contain large amounts of salt, as they will increase your fluid retention.
  • Take a warm bath to relax your muscles or go swimming; the water puts an outside force on the swelling and helps to decrease it.
  • 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.
  • Consider reflexology to help decrease the swelling.
  • Wear your correct shoe size.
  • Stretch and massage the muscles in your legs and feet. Massages should ideally be done by a professional.
  • If driving for a long distance, when you stop, stretch and exercise your legs. This will also help prevent a deep venous thrombosis (DVT), a serious type of blood clot.
  • Have someone else trim your toenails or get professional pedicures done if you are not able to see/reach your feet. Do not trim toenails too short. Swollen skin can overlap the corners of short toenails, causing ingrown toenails.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. This will help supply the nutrients needed for you and your baby.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking calcium, magnesium or sodium chloride supplements.

With pregnancy everyone’s experience is different, but one thing that remains the same is the fact that all expectant mothers need care. Do check us if you need help, our pregnant clients enjoy the holistic care that they receive.

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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