Pregnancy brings with it many weird and wonderful changes to the body – and unfortunately for our feet and legs, some pretty unpleasant changes, too. With so many things to keep tabs on, we thought we’d let you know what changes to your feet you can expect in pregnancy, and how you can help manage your symptoms and feel comfortable on your feet.
But before we start – we want to first say a big congratulations on your growing family! As parents ourselves here at Sole Motion Podiatry, we know it all too well – including the desire to stay mobile and active for as long as possible throughout your pregnancy.
During your pregnancy, a hormone called Relaxin is produced by the placenta and ovaries with a very important job: to loosen the ligaments and soft tissues around your pelvis to make childbirth an easier and much more pleasant experience.
The effects of the Relaxin extend to the rest of your body including your feet, however, loosening the ligaments and making them more prone to stretching. Paired with the increasing weight during pregnancy that places a lot of pressure on your feet, many pregnant women find that both their foot size and their foot width increases between half a size to a full size – sometimes more. This can also lead to foot, arch and heel pain, discomfort, less stability around the ankles, and generally achy legs.
To help reduce your discomfort, keep your feet and arches well supported with good footwear and custom foot orthotics. Try to avoid walking over uneven ground and rocky surfaces that may put you at risk of injury due to compromised ankle stability. At home, wear slippers with orthotic support. Avoid tight and narrow footwear, and if you need shoes in a bigger size or width, get them. Trust us – it’s only going to get harder the further along you get in your pregnancy, so make your foot health and comfort a top priority.
Given that your blood volume can increase anywhere between 20% to 100% during pregnancy, that’s a much greater volume of fluid that is constantly circulating through your body – and a much greater demand on your veins that are responsible for moving blood against gravity from your feet and returning it to your heart. On top of this, with the Relaxin making your tissues looser and your uterus placing more pressure on all the surrounding structures including the veins that blood must pass through to get back to the heart, there is a much greater tendency for more fluids to pool in the legs and cause uncomfortable and frustrating swelling.
Compression socks or stockings can be a lifesaver when it comes to managing swelling, supporting healthy vein function and leaving less room for the fluids to pool. When you notice the swelling and elevate your feet above the level of your heart to promote fluid return. You’ll want to stay well hydrated too – while it may seem counterintuitive to consume even more fluid, staying well hydrated helps promote good kidney function – which may otherwise contribute to the swelling.
With more weight behind you (or should we say in front of you), changes to your centre of gravity and balance, significant increases in fluid volume, more flexibility in your joints and generally less energy due to a quickly growing baby, it’s no surprise that your workouts will be feeling harder and more tiresome.
To stay safe and look after your lower limb health, make sure you follow safe workout practices:
Instead, switch to gentler exercise like walking, swimming, pilates or pregnancy yoga, and trimester-specific bodyweight workouts. Make sure you’re always wearing good, supportive footwear – even when working out at home, and keep your feet and arches supported with custom foot orthotics designed especially to maximise your foot comfort during your pregnancy.
While pregnancy leg cramps begin in the second trimester for many women, we can’t tell you why they become more common in pregnancy – the research is unclear. It may be associated with the increased weight that your legs have to support, or the obstruction of the vena cava vein by your uterus that slows the return of blood to the heart that makes your feet feel more sluggish, and prone to cramping. It may also be linked to dehydration and changes to the mineral levels in your body.
When it comes to restless legs and having that crawly, tingly feeling in your legs with an urge to move them, it may be genetics that play a role – though the experts aren’t sure about this one either. It may also be related to your hormones, dietary factors, and nerve compression by the ever-growing uterus and baby.
To help both of these problems, wearing compression socks or stockings may also help – as can any technique that promotes the circulation in your feet and legs. Avoid crossing your legs when sitting, and keep up your hydration, electrolyte intake and overall nutrition throughout your pregnancy. Get a good amount of sleep, and do everything you can to stay (safely) active and comfortable throughout your pregnancy.
With your ability to stay active and on your feet an essential part of helping you maintain a healthy pregnancy, foot and leg pain and discomfort is not a problem you should put off and ignore. By starting right and keeping your foot and leg health as a top priority from early pregnancy, we can help manage a number of pains and problems before they start.
Often, we do this using good supportive footwear combined with custom foot orthotics that are prescribed and designed specifically to promote healthy foot function while reducing any injury or pain risk. Book your appointment at our Point Cook clinic online here, or call us on 1300-FX-FEET.