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When you're expecting you expect your body to go through changes. What you may not expect is the impact that pregnancy has on your feet. My name is Dr. Andrew Schneider, and I'm a podiatrist in Houston, Texas. Pregnancy can cause changes to your feet that may result in pain. Painful feet are the last thing you need when you're pregnant.
Women have different experiences when they're expecting. Some love the feeling of being pregnant. Others are brutally aware of every acre pain that comes with every pound of baby weight. A common complaint of most pregnant women is tired, swollen, and achy feet. As the baby grows mom's center of gravity moves forward. This puts a strain on the feet and ankles and significantly alters the natural mechanics. This can lead to muscles and tendons getting used more than usual and can cause them to become inflamed and painful.
Swelling is also a common concern in pregnant women. The natural weight gain puts pressure on the veins of the legs. This causes a slowing of the circulation and fluid retention in the feet and ankles. The swelling may shoes tight, and the joints become stiffer because of the accumulation of fluid. A common reaction to the feet swelling during pregnancy is to not wear shoes around the house and to wear flip-flops when you go out. These are not the greatest of ideas and I'll share why shortly.
We also often see the arch of the feet flattening during pregnancy. This is because of two causes. First, the increase in weight puts excess pressure on the feet, causing more pressure on the arch. Also, a hormone called relaxin is released during pregnancy. Its job is to loosen the ligaments, to allow your body to grow with the baby and to give birth. Unfortunately, it's not selective as to which ligaments are loosened. Much of the support of the feet are provided by ligaments. This hormone is another reason why the feet flatten during pregnancy. It's also a reason why many women realize that their feet change significantly during their first pregnancy. Unfortunately, the ligaments don't just snap back into place after the baby is born. When the feet flatten, which is known as pronation, it can be more difficult to walk.
Your pronated feet become less stable. As a result, there's more pressure on the ankles, knees, hips, and back. Soft tissue becomes inflamed and walking can be painful. But all is not lost! There are things you can do to manage your foot pain during pregnancy. The answer isn't medication either, since most anti-inflammatory medication is off limits to you while you're pregnant.
First, support your feet. Remember a minute or so ago, I told you that just slipping on flip-flops wasn't the answer. This is why. Because your feet overpronate and will tend to become flatter, you need to wear supportive shoes, often with insoles or custom orthotics. I understand how convenient it is to just slip on a pair of flip flops. I also recognize how hard it is for you to bend down and tie your shoe laces while your belly is growing. Trust me, I do. But I consistently find that women who were supportive shoes during their pregnancy have less foot pain. They're also able to stay more active. Also, their feet change less than those who wear shoes with little or no support. Is a minute of inconvenience and discomfort worth a pregnancy without foot pain?
Since your feet won't be hurting, thanks to the support you're giving them, be sure to exercise. Whatever you enjoy the most. It's important to keep yourself moving. As you move, the muscles pump the blood. This helps to control the swelling of your feet and ankles. You can also limit swelling by drinking a lot of water and avoid salt. Drinking water will flush out the excess fluids. Salt causes you to retain fluid, so limiting your salt intake will also work to minimize swelling. If you find that your feet and ankles are swelling, elevate your feet and apply ice to them. Raising your feet will allow gravity to help drain your feet and ankles of excess fluid. Ice serves as a natural anti-inflammatory and will also help to reduce the edema in your feet.