Pregnancy is an incredible time, but it also results in some significant bodily changes. Many of these changes involve swelling from an accumulation of fluid. In addition to weight gain and hormonal changes, some pregnant women also undergo changes to their feet due to changes in blood circulation and other reasons. Whether you’re just starting your pregnancy, or you’ve already been pregnant for a few months, here’s how pregnancy affects feet.
There’s a very good chance that your foot size (both length and width) will increase while you’re pregnant. This is primarily due to an increase in both fluid and tissue in the feet.1
Hormonal changes also play a big role in why pregnancy affects feet because they can change your foot size. These changes can loosen ligaments, increasing the length of the foot and decreasing the height of the arch. As a result, you might not be able to fit into your shoes like you used to, or your shoes might feel more snug. In some cases, these changes can be permanent. If you’re experiencing severe foot discomfort, talk to a doctor to determine the best plan that will help you find relief.2
Added fluid can flatten arches (a condition known as overpronation) of the feet just as easily as hormonal changes. This can result in pain when walking. This pain will not only affect the feet, but it could also affect the back and the calves.
Swelling, or edema, usually occurs in the feet during the later portion of the pregnancy.
It happens because the body accumulates extra blood due to the growing uterus. This causes blood circulation to slow to the point where blood may pool in the legs.3 In addition, the added weight-bearing of pregnancy affects feet by leading to overpronation.4
Pregnancy can also lead to plantar fasciitis. This is a painful condition involving inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thin ligament that stretches along the bottom of the foot.5 Your doctor will be able to recommend a plan to address this problem, possibly referring you to a podiatrist – a doctor who specializes in foot issues.
Swelling is another area where pregnancy affects feet. While swelling in the feet is normal, if you suddenly notice it in your hands or face, you should contact a doctor as soon as you can. Swelling in these areas could be a sign of preeclampsia. This condition can lead to organ damage to both the mother and baby, and can, in some cases, be fatal. It can raise blood pressure to dangerous levels for the mother, and cut off blood circulation to the fetus.7
There are several issues that can cause fluid accumulation during pregnancy to worsen. High outside temperatures can make swelling worse, as can consuming too much sodium or caffeine. If your diet doesn’t include enough potassium, that can also exacerbate the problem.8
What Can You Do About It?
Thankfully, there are a lot of things you can do that may help you be more comfortable during your pregnancy. Here are just a few:
Get some exercise –
Exercise will help stimulate the circulation of blood from the legs to other areas of the body, potentially reducing swelling.9
Stay off your feet –
This might seem to contradict the recommendation to exercise, but this refers to standing for extended periods of time. The longer you stand, the more fluid will accumulate in your feet – leading to more swelling.
Make sure your feet are well supported –
Wear shoes that provide good arch support while, at the same time, providing enough room for your feet to spread comfortably. You might want to talk to a foot doctor about the right kind of insoles to give your feet the support they need.11
Use elevation and ice –
Prop up your feet when they swell. Also, apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and pain.12
Be careful about what you eat –
It’s always important to watch what you consume, but it’s even more critical during pregnancy. Too much salt, for example, will cause your body to retain fluid – causing swelling not only in your feet, but throughout your body.13
The Last Word
Swelling of the feet is usually the most common example of how pregnancy affects feet. But there are many things you can do in order to stay safe and happy while you’re pregnant. Always stay in close contact with your doctor, and tell them about any discomfort you’re experiencing. Your doctor will work closely with you to come up with the best plan to make sure you get through this time as comfortable and healthy as possible.
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