Pregnancy brings about a ton of changes to your body, including your feet. You may notice that your shoes are feeling tighter or your gait is different. That's because pregnancy can impact everything from your shoe size to your arch height. While some of these changes are temporary, others aren't.
In addition to pregnancy hormones changing your feet, pregnancy weight also plays a factor. As the joints and ligaments in your feet are loosening, the additional weight adds pressure, which compounds the changes.
Another factor adding to the changes your feet undergo during pregnancy is the increase in blood volume in your body. Carolyn Appel of PROnatal Fitness explains, "Additional fluid in the body, coupled with the more difficult job of the veins to recirculate that fluid from the feet upwards, can create pooling of that fluid in the feet." This results in pedal edema.
If you're noticing your feet are different than they were a few months ago, you're not alone. One study showed that 60-70% of the pregnant women who participated noticed changes to their feet after childbirth.
You might have noticed, especially if you're a runner, these changes to your feet can impact your gait, leading to overpronation. As Parents Magazine notes, "As your center of gravity changes throughout pregnancy, you could wind up collapsing more on the insides of your feet." Visiting a running store for a gait analysis and a new pair of sneakers can help.
For so many women, the combination of pregnancy hormones and weight gain result in larger feet. One study found that by week 38 of pregnancy, women's foot size had increased by about 12 percent.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, "increased weight puts more pressure on the foot, the arch flattens a bit, and the foot elongates. Just a quarter-inch increase in foot length is enough to prompt a change in shoe size.”
During pregnancy be prepared for this shoe size increase with comfortable, supportive shoes that are a half size larger than you normally wear. One silver lining is that changes to your arches and foot size usually only occur during your first pregnancy, so you likely won't increase another shoe size during subsequent pregnancies.
Your feet can also swell during the later stages of pregnancy as your body is retaining more water and fluid. This fluid winds up at your feet, causing the swelling, and increasing pressure on your veins impedes the flow of blood back to your heart. All this adds up to swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet.
To help prevent swollen feet during pregnancy:
Thanks to pregnancy hormones, your arch height will decrease during pregnancy. In fact, your lowered arch height could be permanent. Researchers at the University of Iowa found that during a woman’s first pregnancy, her arch lowers in height more than during any following pregnancy.
As your arch height decreases, you can develop flat feet, a condition in which the arch of your foot basically touches the ground instead of being moderately elevated. Flat feet/low arch is a known cause of the following issues:
Researchers at the University of Iowa found “changes in the feet could potentially contribute to the increased risk for subsequent musculoskeletal disorders in women,” such as increased pronation and excessive stress on the hips and knees. They also noted that “the use of inexpensive, well-tolerated and widely available arch supporting orthoses during pregnancy could potentially protect the long-term musculoskeletal health of women.”
Some of the changes to your feet during pregnancy can cause added discomfort, so it's important to make sure you're treating your feet right. To best take care of your feet while you're pregnant:
If you're worried about the swelling in your feet or it becomes severe, you'll want to contact your doctor. Severe swelling in your feet and ankles that moves toward your upper extremities can be a sign of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy, which definitely warrants a trip to your doctor.
Insoles will give your growing, expanding, and potentially flatter feet arch support and heel stability, which will prevent overpronation while giving you firm, comfortable support. If you wore insoles before your pregnancy, you may find that you need new ones to accommodate the changes to your foot's length, width and arch height.
Finding ways to be comfortable is high priority when you're pregnant and orthotic insoles are one way to keep your feet happy as they help you carry your baby and for long after.
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