We all know a healthy diet and exercise are important aspects of women’s health during pregnancy. But a lesser-known fact? Another key piece of maternal health is foot care. As a woman's body undergoes significant changes during pregnancy, from hormonal fluctuations to carrying extra weight, the health of her feet can be greatly impacted. Neglecting proper prenatal foot care can lead to discomfort, pain, and even long-term issues.
How Pregnancy Affects Foot Health
Below are some common ways pregnancy can affect women’s feet along with suggestions and recommendations to prevent or remedy foot ailments. As always, consult your doctor before making any health changes or decisions.
Weight gain and pregnancy go hand in hand. The growing uterus and fluid retention place added pressure on the lower extremities, often leading to swelling and discomfort. Choosing shoes with proper arch support (in part to avoid flat feet), a wide toe box, and a low heel can help distribute weight more evenly, reducing strain on the feet and other complications, including common compression neuropathy (compression of a nerve).
An example of a compression neuropathy that occurs in the feet is « tarsal tunnel syndrome » which causes burning pain on the soles of the feet. Typically, therapy and massage are recommended during pregnancy for such problems.
Hormonal changes leave feet especially vulnerable to pain due to the effect of the hormone relaxin on ligaments and tendons. Wearing shoes with sufficient cushioning is crucial. Low-impact exercises such as walking or yoga can help maintain foot strength and flexibility. The foot usually widens and lengthens over a pregnancy due to the relaxin hormone. Sometimes, a wider shoe might be required than is normally worn.
Peripheral edema (swelling) is a common issue during pregnancy, particularly in the last few months.
Pressure on blood vessels combined with reduced circulation can trigger fluid retention in the feet and ankles, and tissue swelling results from increased weight.
Remember to drink plenty of water and elevate your legs frequently in order to promote better blood circulation and reduce swelling. Consider using compression socks and avoid standing or sitting for long periods. Muscle action in the legs is a good way to return circulation to the heart.
Foot inspections (can be done with a hand mirror on the floor) should include looking for changes in foot size (indicating the need for a different shoe size) and common foot conditions such as bunions or infections. Shoes that don’t fit well can make existing foot problems worse.
Moisturizing the feet is important during pregnancy as hormones can lead to dry skin, making the feet more prone to cracking and discomfort. Applying hydrating lotions regularly helps maintain the skin’s elasticity and prevent potential complications. And the massaging motion will help those aching pregnant feet!
High heels should be avoided as they can compromise body alignment and increase pressure on the feet. Fall risks, worsening foot issues, and increased potential effects on posture and back pain make opting for flat or lower-heeled shoes a safer, more comfortable choice during pregnancy.
The decision to make foot health a priority during pregnancy will help ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable maternal experience. Your pregnant body will thank you!