Don't overlook your feet!
Top tips to keep your feet healthy during pregnancy.
Ahhh, the joys of pregnancy - nausea, fatigue, stretch marks – oh, and don’t forget the often overlooked changes to your feet. Due to the natural weight gain during pregnancy, a woman's center of gravity is completely altered. This causes a new weight-bearing stance and added pressure to the knees and feet. Two of the most common foot problems experienced by pregnant woman are over- pronation and edema.
Over-pronation, also referred to as flat feet, is caused when a person's arch flattens out upon weight bearing and their feet roll inward when walking. This can lead to pain at the heel, arch, or the ball-of-foot and to inflammation on the plantar fascia, the fibrous band of tissue that runs from the heel to the forefoot.
The reason many pregnant women suffer from over-pronation is the added pressure on the body as a result of weight gain. Over-pronation can be treated with proper fitting footwear and the appropriate orthotics.
It is important to treat over-pronation for pain relief but also to prevent other foot conditions from developing such as Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Metatarsalgia, Post-Tib Tendonitis and/or Bunions.
Swelling and Edema
Raised hormone levels cause you to retain fluid during pregnancy. Typically, fluid retention is particularly pronounced in your feet, ankles, and calves because your growing uterus puts pressure on the veins that carry blood back from your lower body. This partially blocks blood flow, keeping fluid in your legs and feet and leaving you feeling swollen and bloated.
The amount of swelling varies from person to person and even fluctuates throughout the day, often becoming more prominent in the evening as well as in warmer months or climates.
All that swelling may mean a trip to the shoe store as it’s not unusual to go up a full shoe size during pregnancy. Investing in footwear with extra support, shock absorption and comfort will benefit you throughout your pregnancy as your center of gravity continuously changes as you gain weight.
Keep in mind that while mild swelling is normal, if you hands or face become puffy , swelling lasts more than a day or experience rapid weight gain, call your doctor as these can be signs of preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition.
Many women may also experience leg cramping and varicose veins as another side effect of pregnancy.
Leg cramping in the calf can be a sign of a calcium or potassium deficiency. Eating more dairy products or snacking on potassium-rich foods like bananas can help eliminate these painful muscle contractions. If you experience leg cramps, check with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Cramps are most common at night when your feet and legs are resting. You can relieve the pain by resting your calf on a hot water bottle and flexing your foot to stretch your calf. Of course the best way to relieve the pain is to walk it off. Walking each night 15-20 minutes will help to keep your circulation moving.
Pregnant women have up to 40% more blood in the circulatory systems, increasing the amount of pressure on vein walls. The veins can stretch so much that the valves become faulty, allowing blood to pool in the veins and allowing them to become varicose.
Increasing circulation with walking and mild exercise can relieve discomfort and even prevent varicose veins from occurring. Gaining too much weight and/or standing for long periods at a time can increase your risks, as can your genetics (they’re hereditary).
10 Tips for healthy feet during pregnancy
- Sleep on your side, not your back. This relieves pressure on the vena cava, the largest vein leading to the heart. Otherwise, the pressure slows the blood returning from your lower body.
- Consume a lot of fluids. Dehydration worsens swelling.
- Elevate your feet as often as you can. Try to raise your legs 6 to 12 inches above your heart for 15 to 20 minutes to help the blood flow back to your heart and lungs.
- Monitor your weight. Women of normal weight should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Excessive weight gain exacerbates swelling and can lead to other problems.
- Improve the circulation in your ankles with rotation exercises. Try sitting, with one leg raised. Rotate your ankle 10 times to the right, then to the left. Switch legs. Repeat 10 times.
- Ice your ankles. With your feet up, apply ice to the inside of your ankles for 15 to 20 minutes every half hour to an hour.
- Take regular breaks from sitting or standing. A short walk every so often will help keep your blood from pooling in your lower extremities.
- Don't wear socks or stockings that have tight bands around the ankles or calves.
- Eat well, and avoid junk food and excess salt
- Exercise regularly, especially by walking, swimming, or riding an exercise bike. Or try a water aerobics class – immersion in water may temporarily help reduce swelling.