Back pain and nausea are commonly associated with pregnancy, but are you aware of how pregnancy can impact the health of your feet? The increasing weight of your bump and changes to your centre of gravity can put too much strain on your feet, particularly toward the end of your pregnancy. Your body also releases a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy, which softens the ligaments throughout your body. When the ligaments in your feet soften, you lose some of the supporting structure that normally keeps your feet healthy, and they may spread out in response to this lack of support. Here's an overview of two foot conditions commonly experienced in pregnancy:
Swollen feet, also known as oedema, occurs as a result of sluggish circulation. Your circulation can be impaired as a result of relaxin's impact on your blood vessels. This pregnancy hormone can make it difficult for blood vessels to contract efficiently enough to move fluid upwards from your legs, so it pools in your feet. Oedema can lead to you developing varicose veins, cause local irritation as a result of your feet not fitting into your shoes as well as they once did and may increase your risk of developing a blood clot.
You can treat oedema by elevating your feet above your heart for a few minutes at a time throughout the day. This will allow the fluid to gradually move out of your feet and travel up toward your heart. Additionally, ensuring you take time throughout the day to get up and walk around will also improve your circulation, as walking causes your leg muscles to contract. So, if you work at a desk or drive for long periods, take regular breaks. A podiatrist can show you some gentle exercises you can do each day to promote improved circulation and discourage the pooling of fluid in your feet.
The loss of support from your ligaments and the additional weight you carry around in pregnancy can cause your foot arches to collapse. When this happens, your feet roll inwards and this can lead to changes in your gait. Additionally, inflammation can develop along the sole of your foot, which can make walking painful.
Collapsed arches can be treated with custom-made orthotic insoles, which a podiatrist can measure you for. The insoles will be made to lift your arches and provide extra support to your feet. They can also help reduce inflammation and pain by altering the distribution of weight across your feet, which will reduce the pressure on your muscles and joints. Your podiatrist will also give you advice on selecting footwear that will support your arches rather than put additional strain on your feet.
If you're experiencing any foot pain or would like advice on maintaining your foot health during pregnancy, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist for a foot exam.