While your feet may not seem like the top priority during pregnancy, they undergo changes just like the rest of your body. In fact, since pregnancy and foot problems go hand in hand, it is important to take care of your feet during your pregnancy. Read on to find out ways you can give your feet the TLC they need.
As your fetus grows in size, your body—including your feet—change to accommodate its development. Both overall weight gain and shifts in how you carry your weight put added stress on your feet during pregnancy.
Moreover, pregnancy hormones such as estrogen and relaxin are released to relax the joints and pelvis, accommodating the delivery of your baby. But these hormones also loosen your foot ligaments, causing your feet to expand. Due to these changes, pregnancy is associated with swollen feet and ankles, flattened arches, and increased shoe size.
The American Podiatric Medical Association describes the changes to your pregnant feet as follows:
“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.”
Changes to your arches and foot size usually only occur during your first pregnancy. In other words, you probably won’t increase a shoe size during your subsequent pregnancies.
Changes in your feet can cause added discomfort. Here are some ways to alleviate foot discomfort during pregnancy:
Foot exercises can also help reduce swelling:
If you experience severe swelling in your feet and ankles that moves towards your upper extremities, see a doctor. This can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a serious condition in which high blood pressure and protein in the urine develop later in the pregnancy (usually after the 20th week).
Flattened arches can prove to be an enduring problem that develops during pregnancy. But this is also one of the most common foot problems after pregnancy, even after you lose weight.
Scientific research has proven that “pregnancy appears to be associated with a persistent loss of arch height and rigidity as well as greater arch drop and foot lengthening,” particularly during the first pregnancy. Researchers at the University of Iowa found that “these 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.
The same team of researchers posited 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.” They called for more research on the topic, but their recommendations demonstrate that orthotic insoles can provide the necessary relief and support that your pregnant feet need.
In addition to the common problems related with pregnant feet noted above, it's important to know that your feet will likely grow when you are pregnant as well. Here are some feet changes to expect.
Your feet will change by a half size or more during pregnancy. This increase in foot size is caused by the increase of the hormones estrogen and relaxin during your pregnancy. These hormones are released to relax your joints and pelvis to accommodate childbirth, but they also loosen the ligaments in your foot, causing them to expand and grow.
Your shoe size can also be affected by weight gain — and then subsequent post-pregnancy weight loss. Have you ever noticed that if you gain or lose a bit of weight, your shoe size changes? After I had my son, my shoe size went back to normal. However, a few years after that, I lost even more weight through better eating and exercise and noticed that my shoes felt looser. Imagine my surprise when I went to the store and found that my normally size 10 feet now fit into a size 9 with ease.
During pregnancy be prepared for this shoe size increase with comfortable, supportive shoes that are a half size larger than you normally wear.
Your feet can also swell up during the later stages of pregnancy, as mine did. There are a number of reasons for this. First, your body is retaining more water and fluid while you’re pregnant. This fluid winds up down at your feet, causing the swelling. Also, as your uterus grows, it will put increasing pressure on your veins, which can impede the flow of blood back to your heart. This pressure leads to increased swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet.
Here are a few ways 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.
Forty-nine women took part in the arch-height study. Their arches were measured during the first trimester and then again 19 weeks after they gave birth. From that study, it was shown that arch height significantly decreased during pregnancy and that pregnancy was associated with a permanent loss of arch height. This decrease doesn’t appear in subsequent pregnancies, showing the first pregnancy as the major cause.
As your arch height decreases, this can lead to 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:
During your pregnancy, your weight increases, and this will shift your sense of balance as well as increase pressure on your hips, knees, ankles, and feet as you walk. With the help of orthotic insoles, you can give your arches the support they deserve.
Orthotic insoles will give your growing, expanding, and potentially flatter feet the support they need by fully supporting your arch while also stabilizing your heel to concentrate the fatty pad underneath your heel bone. This will prevent overpronation while giving you firm, comfortable support.
You may be asking if the orthotic insoles you wore before will fit you during pregnancy. With the changes to your foot's length, width, and arch height, it's more likely than not that you will need new insoles during pregnancy.
When you’re pregnant, comfort is one of your top priorities. By using orthotic insoles, your feet will thank you as they’re helping you carry your soon-to-be baby. Stride on in comfort with the use of orthotic insoles that are right for your feet.
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