What you Need to Know about Foot Pain and Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time of dramatic physical change, which unfortunately causes foot pain in many women. This foot pain can often be attributed to the rapid and significant weight gain that naturally occurs during the gestational period. The additional mass puts more pressure on the ankles and feet, while the protruding belly changes the pregnant woman’s posture and center of gravity. There are also hormonal changes during pregnancy that may be responsible for some of the painful symptoms experienced. These changes force the pregnant woman to alter her stance/movements, and frequently cause other complications as well. Here are some of the more common causes of foot pain that occur during pregnancy:
Pregnant women have trouble bending over to cut their toenails. As a result, the edge of the toenails may grow down into the skin on the side, causing pain and inflammation. Ingrown toenails can also occur due to the extra pressure that the baby weight forces on the toes; this pressure can cause the nail to curve into the skin. If you have an ingrown toenail, you should soak your feet in warm water multiple times every day to soften the nail and surrounding skin. You should also massage the inflamed areas, and put a small piece of cotton or floss under the nail to encourage normal growth. Cut the nails straight across without attempting to cut out the ingrown nail. You can take over-the-counter pain medicine as needed and try to wear sandals or other shoes that don’t put pressure on the toes. If home remedies don't work, a physician may remove the nail.
Over-pronation, is a disorder characterized by abnormal rolling of the foot. In order to walk and run, your feet pronate, or “roll in,” to a small degree, allowing you to run with your weight dispersed over the whole foot. This is important for stabilization and shock absorption. If you suffer with over-pronation, the foot rolls inward to an excessive degree and the arch flattens out, making walking painful and stressful. This puts stress on the muscles of the lower extremities and makes a wide range of foot and leg injuries more likely. This condition is common in pregnant women because of the pressure the baby weight puts on the body. You can purchase (or get a prescription for) supportive orthotics to prevent deformities or injuries, and improve movement.
Edema is swelling caused by the accumulation of fluid in body tissues. Pregnant women are susceptible to foot edema as they begin to gain a significant amount of weight. As the uterus grows bigger, it puts pressure on blood vessels in the lower extremities, causing them to swell and sometimes change to a blue-purplish color. You should wear flexible socks and shoes that leave room for swelling to minimize pain caused by ill-fitting footwear. You should also elevate your legs above heart-level as often as possible in order to reduce swelling. Leg and foot exercises can help with edema by building up muscle to minimize fluid retention.
An excess amount of a hormone called “relaxin” is released during pregnancy. This chemical is design to loosen up muscles in the pelvis to prepare the pregnant woman for birth. This hormone also loosens up the muscles in the feet, though, which can cause the arches of the feet to flatten. Fallen arches put additional stress on different parts of the feet, causing pain and instability. Orthotics can be used to correct fallen arches or at least reduce the pain and limitations they cause. Comfortable footwear is another key part of podiatric care that can help improve function and mobility.
…And Many More
To avoid general foot pain during pregnancy you can try the following:
- Wear shoes and socks that fit properly and don’t create extra pressure or friction. Avoid walking barefoot.
- Utilize orthotics, arch supports, and other support systems for your feet as needed.
- Ask someone to trim your toenails for you if you are unable to reach your feet
- Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals and drink plenty of water to reduce fluid retention and encourage healthy circulation. Avoid high-sodium diets.
- Elevate your feet above heart-level as needed to reduce pain and swelling. Try to take regular breaks throughout the day to do this as a preventative measure
- Take prenatal vitamins to improve muscle, skin, and nail health
- Try not to stand for long periods of time; pace or walk around if you can to encourage circulation
- Try not to sit for long periods of time, as this can cause blood clots. Avoid clotting by stretching and exercising your legs on a regular basis
- Avoid crossing your legs, as this puts pressure on nerves and blood vessels
- Stretch and massage the muscles in your legs and feet
- Take warm baths to relax the muscles
- Wear compression stockings as needed to reduce swelling
- Engage in regular low impact exercise such as swimming or walking which will strengthen the muscles and help to reduce swelling
- Consult with a medical professional if symptoms worsen, change, or otherwise seem concerning