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For many women, pregnancy is a joyous adventure, a time when a woman “glows”. This glow is a clear outward indication of the vast changes pregnancy creates in a woman’s body; some of which may seem unexpected or surprising to many new mothers-to-be. The most uncomfortable of these bodily changes are a range of foot problems that can interfere with a woman’s daily routine.
Since our feet impact our body alignment, balance, and posture, proper foot care – particularly during pregnancy—can improve our quality of life. Pay close attention to 2 of the most common pregnancy-related foot problems: flat feet and swelling.
Pregnancy leads to a surge of hormones. These same hormones that are often blamed for pregnant women’s emotional mood swings and food cravings serve to relax ligaments and muscles that prepare a woman’s body for vaginal birth. This relaxation is body-wide, occurring in a woman’s feet and leading to fallen arches or flat feet.
Strangely enough, the change in ligaments also increases a woman’s shoe size (I’m sure the weight gain also helps!). Add to the fallen arches the weight of the growing womb, the developing baby, and the expanding breasts to her already compromised feet. It’s no wonder many women seek relief from the discomfort. Can you blame them?
Swelling or edema is one of the most common problems in pregnancy. This is because a woman’s body is increasing blood volume to ensure necessary nutrients and oxygen reach the baby. This increased blood flow means increased fluid, and gravity does the rest, pulling fluid to the feet and ankles when a woman spends a long time standing.
Oftentimes women will notice their shoes become tighter throughout the day. Although this swelling is uncomfortable, or sometimes even painful, edema that is relieved by a change in position isn’t something to worry about. Things like elevating one’s legs, resting on the left side, or increasing fluid intake throughout the day, can often help.
My foot swelling was the worse right after having my first son. I had so much fluid in my feet that I literally felt them squish when I walked. Talk about fun times.
Prevention and Treatments
First and foremost, avoid standing – especially in one position – for long periods of time. Walking will help pump some of the fluid out of your legs to alleviate the swelling, but sitting or lying down and elevating your feet several times per day will help both the fallen arches and the swelling and reduce your discomfort. In addition, pregnant women need the support shoes offer, so avoid walking barefoot during this time when you can.
Proper footwear and heel pads are the keys to comfort. They will help you relieve some of the symptoms of both fallen arches and edema. Extra weight, loose ligaments and muscles, and increasing imbalance all necessitate properly fitted, supportive shoes; likewise, wearing the correct size shoe can alleviate some swelling. So be sure to get your shoe size rechecked during pregnancy.
A few minor lifestyle changes could also help alleviate swelling during your last trimester. As your due date approaches and the swelling increases, you may want to wear compression stocking – either knee-high or thigh-high for the best support – to decrease the fluids building up in your lower limbs.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, throughout the day to ensure proper hydration, and avoid processed foods and foods that contain large amounts of salt since they will increase your fluid retention.
Consider a dip in a pool or a relaxing bath. Not only will the water feel soothing, but the outside pressure on the swelling will actually help to decrease it. Heck, just take a spa day. You deserve it!
By caring for our feet, especially during the physical stresses of pregnancy, we are ensuring proper support for the rest of our body too.
1/16/18 Hey there! It is crazy what cold weather can do to San Antonio. Major highways are closed so it’s like shutting down the city. I’m going to stay cozy in my house 🙂
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.