Pregnancy and Footcare

Pregnancy and Footcare

Changes in your feet are normal during pregnancy, due mainly to weight gain and hormonal effects. As your bump grows, not only does more weight go through the feet, but your centre of gravity is shifted forward, changing your posture and altering the way you walk. This means the muscles in your legs and feet are used differently, and can lead to aching and pain.

In addition, your body is releasing the hormone relaxin to prepare the body for carrying and delivery of the baby. However its effects cannot only target the pelvis, therefore all ligaments and soft tissues are affected. This means your feet flatten and spread, often permanently increasing your shoe size. Relaxin also causes relaxation of the smooth muscle fibres in the blood vessel walls allowing them to leak. Additionally the pressure the growing uterus puts on the veins in the pelvis causes fluid to leak out of the smaller vessels lower down the leg, causing swelling around the ankles. This back pressure on the veins also allows them to distend and widen causing varicose veins. These can feel achy, itchy and throb.

The hormone changes also cause an increase in body temperature, causing feet to become red, burning, itchy and irritable. Other changes due to swelling and increased weight include hard skin/calluses, ingrowing toenails, and due to nutrients going to the baby, nails can suffer, becoming dry and brittle. Eventually the size of your bump will prevent you being able to care for your feet and perform simple functions like nail cutting.

What can I do?

Footwear – As the weight through your feet is already higher and gait (the way you walk) altered, wear shoes which support your feet as much as possible and provide stability when you are standing and walking. Avoid high heels and slip on shoes, and go for flat shoes with adjustable fastenings to accommodate swelling and expanding feet. Running shoes/trainers are ideal. Avoid going barefoot in case of injury, and be aware that your shoe size at 3 months may not be the same at 6 or 9. Remember, your employer has a legal responsibility to safeguard your health and wellbeing, and must allow modifications in work footwear.

Activity – at work, if you are stationary all day, try to exercise and stretch your ankles and feet as much as possible behind the desk. At your rest breaks, try to elevate your feet above your hips to reduce swelling. Continue to exercise gently such as walking or swimming which will aid your circulation without putting too much stress on your body.

Support aids – a pair of medical support/ compression stockings can help push the excess fluid out of your legs and feet, and support any varicose veins. Remember to continue drinking plenty of fluids – dehydration will not reduce the swelling. If leg and foot pains are troubling you, a podiatrist can provide orthotics to support the foot and redistribute weight.

Help from others – as your feet become obscured by your bump, enlist your partner/a friend to help cut or file your toenails, massage to reduce swelling, and rub cream into your feet. You can also treat yourself to a professional pedicure or treatment from a podiatrist.

WARNING – Seek advice immediately if you get severe or sudden swelling in your feet, hands or face, one leg only swelling, headaches or blurred vision, or unexplained redness and pain especially around a varicose vein. These changes are not normal and can signal pre-eclampsia, deep vein thrombosis or cellulitis. Intense itching should be checked out also as can be a sign of liver problems associated with the pregnancy.