Pregnant women experience many changes throughout their body and though the feet are not necessarily part of having a baby, they are subject to the changes that pregnancy brings.
One of the key hormones involved in pregnancy is relaxin. Relaxin is thought to be involved in each of the three trimesters of pregnancy. Toward the end of pregnancy, it is thought that relaxin softens the ligaments around the hips and pelvis in order to improve pelvic mobility. While this assists in delivering your baby, it can cause the ligaments elsewehere in your body to become more flexible also. In the case of your knees, ankles and feet, this means that you may not be as stable as you once were. Another factor to consider is the fact that when you are pregnant, you have to carry more weight around. The weight of your baby, amniotic fluid and the fluid that you retain all contribute to an increase in the load on your body. In normal circumstances, your body may be able to tolerate weight gain without breaking down and developing an injury. But when combined with the effects of the hormone relaxin, you may be more likely to develop a soft tissue injury. This is because your ligaments are not as strong as they were previously, and they are subject to more work / load. As a result, you may see postural changes in your feet and legs, and the change in demand on your muscle may increase muscle aches and tension.
Flat Feet On common postural change is flat feet aka over-pronation. It occurs when a person's arch flattens on weight bearing, causing their foot to roll inward when walking. In some cases, the effect of over-pronation can make walking very painful and can increase the strain on the feet, calves and back. Over pronation occurs during pregnancy because relaxin decreases the stability of the medial ankle and plantar arch, and the added load from pregnancy weight gain.
Soft Tissue Injuries In some cases, the effect of the flattening arch during pregnancy can stress the plantar fascia (plantar fasciitis), the fibrous band of tissue that runs from the heel to the forefoot. The tibialis posterior muscle (medial stabilising muscle of the ankle and foot) can also be affected. If your are experiencing problems due to over-pronation (flat feet) it is important that you treat it not only 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. Most of these conditions can be treated conservatively without the need for medications or surgery. Typically, they involve either a custom or "ready-made" orthotic. These orthotics should be designed with appropriate arch support to correct the over-pronation and improve comfort, and can be fitted and purchased from your podiatrist. Proper fitting footwear is also very important in treating over-pronation. Choose comfortable footwear that provides extra support and shock absorption.
Hot and Swollen Feet Swellling in the feet otherwise referred to as oedema, normally occurs in the latter part of pregnancy due to a number of changes that occur with in the body. Increased blood volume, extra pressure on the blood vessels in the legs and pelvis and increased water retention all have an effect.
Hot and burning sensations in the feet are also very common in pregnancy, not only due to a sudden increase in weight and swelling, but because of hormonal changes that cause a slight increase in body temperature. Many pregnant women report that their feet can become hot and irritable as they grow tired even leading to a loss of sleep in extreme cases. It should be mentioned though that there are other more serious conditions that can cause these symptoms so if you have any concerns you may like to have it assessed by your podiatrist to rule out any other potential causes.
Tips for pregnant feet Pregnancy related swelling in the feet can be minimized by the following methods: - Elevate your feet as often as possible. If you have to sit for long periods of time, place a small stool by your feet to elevate them. - Wear proper fitting footwear. Footwear that is too narrow or short will constrict circulation. - If swelling becomes a big problem you may need to have your feet measured several times throughout your pregnancy. They will probably change sizes. - Wear seamless socks that do not constrict circulation such as those designed for diabetics. - If you are driving for a long period of time, take regular breaks to stretch your legs to promote circulation. - Exercise regularly to promote overall health; walking is the best medicine. - Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated. This helps the body retain less fluid. - Eat a well-balanced diet and avoid foods high in salt that can cause water retention.
Cooling foot gels, foot spas and regular bathing of the feet, followed by wearing open toed shoes when able will help to keep feet feeling cool and refreshed, and hopefully aiding in a good night’s sleep.
Foot Wear Comfort is of the essence when you are pregnant to ensure a smooth and enjoyable pregnancy. Good quality and comfortable footwear is essential. If your job requires you to wear heels, try a lower, broader heel. Your employers have a legal responsibility to safeguard your health and well being and must allow for these modifications. If you are having problems finding comfortable shoes, a good shoe fitter or a podiatrist may be able to point you in the right direction by assessing your feet.
Foot Care Due to the additional stress put on feet during pregnancy and hormonal changes, cracked heels and hard skin (callus) often results. Many women enjoy the chance to sit back and have their feet pampered at these times. However, callus should be treated by a registered Podiatrist if required to make sure you don't get any infections that could impact your health. The advantage of seeing a podiatrist is that whilst there you can also safely have your nails done which is always greatly appreciated when your feet become harder to reach. See our Podiatry spa website for ways you can pamper yourself whilst pregnant.