When you are pregnant, your world is about to change and so are your feet. Because of the many changes that pregnancy causes, feet may not be the first thing you think about. Foot issues can be common during pregnancy. However an ounce of prevention can prevent months, years or sometimes a lifetime of foot issues.
The average weight gain during pregnancy is between 10kg and 12.5kg. The rapid weight gain adds stress to the body, as well as your feet. Because the weight is concentrated on the one area, your center of gravity shifts forward. To compensate for the weight gain in the front, you will either lean back more or stress will be added to the ball of the foot. Your back, feet or both may feel the effects.
During pregnancy, hormonal changes occur that lead to laxity or looseness of the ligaments in the body. This helps to prevent unwanted early contractions, and in the later stages of pregnancy to allow the pelvic floor the flexibility for childbirth. Having a systemic effect, these hormones also can affect the ligaments of the feet. This loosening can result in a decrease in the height of the arch (foot becomes flatter), which can increase the foot length and width. There’s a reason you may notice your shoes feel tighter or that they can no longer fit into your favourite shoes. As the foot flattens it causes a slight inward rotation of your lower limbs, which can stress the knees, hips, and lower back.
The flattening of the foot is called pronation and is a necessary natural motion of the foot. Slight pronation allows the foot to become more flexible to adapt to uneven ground surfaces and absorb the shock of heel strike. “Over pronation” is common in pregnancy, and occurs when the increased weight of carrying your baby over stresses the feet and flattens the arches. This causes the feet to roll in excessively. The loosened foot ligaments due to pregnancy cause the foot to remain in pronation while pushing off, further stressing the foot structures. Over pronation can stretch the tissues lining the bottom of your feet, also known as the plantar fascia. When the plantar fascia is stretched, it can cause painful inflammation called plantar fasciitis. Over pronation and plantar fasciitis result in pain, primarily in the arch or heel.
Swelling of the feet and legs can also occur during pregnancy as the baby interferes with circulation in the lower limbs. Swelling can interfere with the fit of your shoes as well as the feeling of achy legs.
To prevent or lessen pain during pregnancy, proper shoes, orthotics and compression socks can be helpful.
Wear supportive shoes, with good internal support or custom orthotics. This will help to prevent over stretching, and permanent lengthening of the tendons of the feet. Any time you are on your feet, you should have support. Consider supportive sandals for slippers around the house. Continue to wear your support after pregnancy, because the effects of the hormones released will have an effect lasting about six weeks after delivery, and even longer if you are breast feeding.
If you had problems with your feet before pregnancy it may be advisable to opt for a custom foot orthotic, as they will address the issues you currently have while protecting your feet during pregnancy.
To deal with swelling, discuss the possibility of compression stockings with your medical practitioner. Compression stockings can help with swelling in the feet and legs. There are specific pregnancy compression stockings if the full pantyhose stockings are needed.
Protect yourself and your feet, and dream about the wonderful addition coming into your life.
Talk to your Canadian Certified Pedorthist for recommendations on the proper shoes, orthotics and compression socks.
Written by Jaimie McVean, C. Ped (C)