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California Foot & Ankle Institute

Pregnancy and Feet

We get it; we really do. There is so much excitement and so many things to do when a child is on the way. There’s plenty to prepare for, and it can all turn into a blur—until all that running around becomes more difficult on your feet. With all the changes to an expectant mother’s body during pregnancy, the feet often get overlooked. They may get hidden by a swollen belly, but painful and swollen feet can need some attention, too.

foot pain during pregnancyHow Does Pregnancy Affect the Feet?

The added weight of a growing child is an obvious factor in foot pain and swelling. As weight increases, it can cause a shift in a woman’s center of gravity in addition to extra pressure on the feet. These changes can result in conditions such as plantar fasciitis (a common cause of heel pain) or a flattening of the arches. Both can cause painful inflammation, either while moving or after long periods of standing or remaining still. That unfortunately leaves few opportunities to be comfortable.

While baby weight is a prominent influence on the feet, it is not the only one. You might also blame hormones or excess liquid for your swollen feet. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is released throughout the body. Its primary purpose is to loosen the joints around the pelvis to make the birthing process easier, but it can loosen the ligaments in the feet as well. This can cause the bones of the feet to spread, making the feet larger.

Another potential cause of larger or swollen feet is the retention of extra fluid in the body. Extra fluid is often produced to aid in supplying the baby with nutrients, and the added pressure of the growing uterus on blood vessels can also cause circulation to decrease. The result can be extra fluid pooling in the feet, usually during the third trimester. This is medically known as edema.

The effects of edema tend to disappear around a month after birth, but the change in shoe size that results from spreading joints and ligaments can often be permanent.

How to Care for Feet During Pregnancy

As the body changes during pregnancy, adaptation is key to preventing further discomfort and problems.

As the feet swell, buy larger shoes to accommodate them. Sticking to your old, now-too-small shoes can only increase the pain and discomfort. Not only that, but they can contribute to other conditions such as bunions and ingrown toenails, too. Whatever you buy, make sure it is supportive and roomy. Orthotic insoles can also help.

Additional means to treat edema include drinking plenty of water to help flush excess liquid from the body. Try to avoid excess salt and caffeine, however, as these tend to make the body hold on to liquids further. Exercise can also increase circulation, which in turn carries pooled fluids away.

Be mindful of your feet, especially during the end of your term, and don’t push yourself by standing for long periods of time. Keep the feet elevated when swollen, and apply an ice pack for pain.

If nothing seems to be helping you get rid of pain and swelling in the feet, it’s time to call in some professional assistance. The doctors at California Foot and Ankle Institute understand how the feet can change during pregnancy and will help you find solutions that will increase your comfort until that bundle of joy arrives. Scheduling an appointment with us is easy: just call (949) 833-3406 for our Irvine office or (760) 951-2000 for Victorville. We can also be contacted toll-free at (888) 796-6631.