There’s no question about it, pregnancy brings dramatic changes to our bodies, from our scalp right down to our toes. Having carried four babies myself, I’ve experienced most, if not all of them, and am happy to report that the overwhelming majority are temporary, so don’t despair!
Interestingly, some of the most universal, but least talked about pregnancy changes occur in our feet and legs. I recently sat down with Nashville-based podiatrist, Dr Emily Keeter to discuss what women can expect when it comes to pregnancy and their feet, and how to troubleshoot some of the more aggravating symptoms.
Your body retains more water and fluid in the later stages of pregnancy. That fluid can accumulate in your feet and legs, putting pressure on the veins and impeding blood flow back to the heart, causing swelling and discomfort.
- Stay active - movement improves circulation and reduces swelling so depending on how you feel, a walk, a run or a bike ride will help keep fluids moving
- Stay hydrated - most doctors recommend roughly 10 cups of liquid per day to help flush out excess sodium, toxins and hormones
- Sleep left - sleeping on your left side with a pillow between your knees takes pressure off of the inferior vena cava, the vein that carries blood from your lower half to your heart
- Compression socks - a favorite among athletes, they can improve blood flow and help prevent swelling particularly after a workout or a long day on your feet
Despite appearances, your feet don’t actually grow during pregnancy, but increased weight, coupled with higher levels of the hormone Relaxin, can loosen the ligaments in your feet, causing your arches to flatten and your feet to elongate.
- Support - giving your feet some extra support with insoles or orthotics will help elevate your arches and prevent the overpronation that can lead to knee and hip discomfort
- Comfortable Shoes - if your feet do lengthen, size up in the shoes you wear most often to give your feet room to breathe and ensure good circulation while you’re pregnant
Aches and Pains:
What doesn’t ache when you’re pregnant! Carrying more weight, a drop in arch height and swelling can all contribute to foot pain. With increased pressure on the fascia of the foot (the thick band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes), you can wind up with inflammation known as plantar fasciitis.
- Rest and Ice - at the end of a long day, elevating your feet for an hour with intermittent icing (15 minutes on, 15 minutes off) can help reduce swelling and tamp down inflammation
- Massage - A simple 10 minute foot massage with a pain relief balm can increase circulation, quiet noisy nerves and stimulate healing. Alternatively, you can use a tennis ball, rolling it back and forth under your arch while you’re sitting
- Wear Shoes - minimize the time you spend barefoot and opt instead for good supportive shoes with insoles to maintain your arch and reduce pressure on the fascia
Pregnancy is certainly an exciting time, but also a trying one for our bodies and our feet bear much of the load. With a little extra time and care, you can help ensure that minor foot issues are resolved quickly and your feet and legs are healthy enough to carry you through your pregnancy.
Reviewed by a board certified podatrist