Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful periods in a woman’s life, but it’s also a time when extra attention needs to be paid to the body, to ensure the health of both mother and child. And that includes the feet as well. Remember, the feet has to carry the increasing weight as the pregnancy advances.
Because we tend to take our feet for granted, it’s only when some discomfort or pain surfaces, that we are jolted into action. So let’s look at what’s involved during your pregnancy, with tips to deal with the issues that can surface.
Some Key Foot Health Issues
- Swollen legs and feet: 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.
- Arch and heel pain: 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 the result of changes in the joint, ligament and other soft tissue alignment. Painful heels and ball of the feet are also not uncommon.
- Varicose veins: During pregnancy, circulation in the lower body becomes sluggish, which can cause blood to
pool in your veins. Pregnancy hormones also have an impact, causing the walls of the blood vessels to relax. In turn, the walls of the veins distend and widen, leading to enlarged blue or purple twisted veins, which are visible under the skin.
- Increased chance of ligament sprain or trauma: There’s an increased level of the ovarian hormone relaxin, which increases the flexibility of collagen, making your ligaments looser, for the pelvis to 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.
Healthy Feet Tips For During Pregnancy
- Raise your feet and legs up whenever you can, and do daily leg and calf stretches.
- Wear comfortable, supportive footwear – ideally with a strap, laces, or Velcro. Choose a heel height of 3cm. This helps to shift your weight a little further forward on your feet, and helps to alleviate discomfort. Avoid wearing high heels, as this can place unnecessary pressure on your joints, at a time when they are already under strain.
- Don’t cross your legs or ankles when sitting.
- Keep active – keep the lower limbs moving even when resting. Lying on your back and simulating riding a bike will help the muscles in the leg and encourage swelling to reduce.
- Prevent cramps from occurring by boosting circulation – try rotating your ankles ten times to the left, and ten times to the right, and repeating.
- Before you start an exercise programme, check with your midwife or GP.
- If you experience arch pain, visit a podiatrist, who if necessary, will be able to provide special inserts for your shoes to help treat the problem.
- Wear surgical stockings – with advice from your midwife, GP, or health professional.
Footwear Purchasing Tips For Pregnancy
- Feet tend to swell during the day, so buy shoes later in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest.
- Try on both shoes and walk around the store to ensure they don’t pinch or rub.
- Make sure there is 1cm between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
- Keep heel heights to about 3cm.
- Choose a shoe with a strap to keep it firmly on your foot, but avoiding straps which are difficult to deal with– especially in the final trimester of your pregnancy.
- Choose shoes with a toe box that is high and wide enough to fit comfortably, either rounded or square shaped, not pointed.
- Don’t rush when you’re buying shoes (even when you’ve spotted a great bargain). Take your time and make sure they fit you properly.
- Choose supportive footwear with extra shock absorption, supportive arch, and firm heel.
Beside pregnancy being an uncomfortable time for many expectant mothers, it can take up to a year afterwards, for your feet to recover. But the good news is, there are a variety of ways in which foot pain or discomfort can be prevented or alleviated, whilst you are expecting. Follow the tips, or make an appointment with a podiatrist to assess your individual needs.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!