Foot pain is common during pregnancy. Just ask anyone who is or was pregnant. Most research suggests that around 50% of those who get pregnant experience some form of foot pain. The most obvious reason for this is having to carry the extra weight, but there are other factors at play as well that increase the risk for foot pain during pregnancy.
Reasons for Increased Foot Pain During Pregnancy:
There are a number of documented and speculated reasons why foot pain is more common during pregnancy:
- Weight gain. This is the obvious one. During the course of the pregnancy more weight is gained and the feet are expected to carry that around, especially for those who are more active. Feet are remarkable at adapting to increased loads that are placed on them if the increase in those loads is slow and gradual. If the weight gain during the pregnancy is too rapid for the feet to adapt to, then they can become painful and ‘breakdown’.
- Swelling. Due to the fluid retention that occurs during pregnancy the feet and ankle swell (edema). This affects blood flow and can increase the risk for foot problems. This is also going to be an issue for footwear fit as the swollen foot is not going to fit into the usual regular footwear. Wearing tighter shoes is going to cause a range of foot problems.
- Hormone changes. Especially the hormone, relaxin, is released during pregnancy (to prepare the pelvis for childbirth) and this hormone affects the ligaments in the feet increasing the risk for foot problems.
- Gait changes. As weight is gained during the pregnancy there are changes in the gait and posture, mostly related to a more forward position of the center of gravity. These changes or alteration in gait can increase the risk for foot problems (and falls).
- “Overpronation” or flat feet. Due the increased weight and the effects of the hormone, relaxin, there is an increased level of an overpronated or flat foot. This also increases the risk for developing foot problems during pregnancy.
- Pre-existing foot problem. There may already be minor foot problems present (such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, etc) that the above factors are going to make worse.
General Measures to Help Foot Pain During Pregnancy:
What can be doe to help foot pain during pregnancy? How can you throw the kitchen sink at it to help it?
A good place to start would before you get pregnant. Get your feet (and the rest of your body) into good condition before the changes that come with the pregnancy take place. Exercise, your feet by increasing the loads on them. Gradually increase the loads on your feet so that can adapt to those loads and then take the extra loads imposed on them during the pregnancy. Increase the strength of the muscles in the feet and legs and keep working on them during the pregnancy. Start on an exercise program to get your body and feet into shape and build resilience.
Get the right footwear. Make sure you have good supportive shoes ready for when the pregnancy weight starts going on so that the feet are well supported. The shoes need to be able to accommodate the feet swelling or you will run into problems. Have a range of footwear available and mix them up if need be to get what is comfortable and helpful. Generally, footwear like flip flops without support should be avoided (however, there are the Archies that do have support built into them).
Using things like arch supports in good supporting shoes are a good way to prevent those tired and aching feet that often develop during pregnancy. There are a number of reasonably priced options available, but if your problem is more complex then you may need more substantial custom foot orthotics from a podiatrist.
If the swelling of the feet and ankles is becoming a problem, then you may need to use compression hosiery and rest more with your feet up to help get the swelling down.
Above all, rest. Remain as active as you can to maintain your well being, but also take rest periods to allow your feet and body to rest and recover. If you can avoid standing still in one place and keep moving if you can.
Most importantly, have your partner give you regular foot massages. This is going to make your feet feel so much better and help your general well being.
The above general measures will generally be helpful, but more treatment may need to be directed at any specific problems or diagnoses that may develop, such as plantar fasciitis or one of the causes of metatarsalgia. Podiatrists are the experts on foot problems and are well aware about what happens to the feet during pregnancy.
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University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger, dad.