Foot Changes During Pregnancy: What to Expect

You can expect a lot of physical changes during your pregnancy. Though the most noticeable may happen around your belly, nearly every part of your body will experience something new during this time. Your feet take a lot of the impact from your growing body as the pregnancy progresses, and you’re likely to notice several changes, some which can even be permanent. Here’s what to expect.

Swollen Feet During Pregnancy

Swelling is common in the feet, ankles, and calves during pregnancy. This typically worsens in the later stages. Your body naturally retains more water when you’re pregnant, which contributes to some of this swelling as this extra liquid tends to pool in the lower extremities, particularly when you’re on your feet a lot.

Your feet and ankles may also swell because it’s more difficult for your body to pump blood back upward when you’re pregnant. Your expanding uterus can put pressure on the veins bringing blood back up to your heart, slowing down circulation in this area.

In most cases, swollen feet, ankles, and legs are perfectly normal. However, a blood clot can form in rare cases. Symptoms of a blood clot include warmth, tenderness, and persistent pain. You may also notice redness at the site of the clot. Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect a blood clot.

Another complication associated with swollen feet is preeclampsia. This is a serious condition that requires medical treatment as soon as possible. Contact your physician if you notice symptoms of preeclampsia, such as a bad headache, blurred vision, flashing lights in your eyes, severe pain beneath your ribs, or swelling in the face and hands.

Foot Growth During Pregnancy

Pregnancy hormones cause the ligaments in your feet to loosen, which makes your feet grow. The added weight from your pregnancy may further contribute to your expanding feet, which can increase in both length and width.

You may start wearing an entirely different shoe size during pregnancy. If your shoes feel too tight, don’t try to fight the change. Rather, invest in a pair of new shoes that are sized to the current dimensions of your feet so you can enjoy the comfort that you need and deserve during your pregnancy. Avoid heels and choose something supportive instead.

Though your feet may return to their original size and shape after the baby comes, some women experience a permanent increase in shoe size. This typically occurs during the first pregnancy, as foot growth is less dramatic during subsequent pregnancies.

Overpronation and Pregnancy

Pronation is the process by which your feet roll inward as you take a step. If your foot rolls more than 15 degrees, you have what’s known as overpronation. This causes the inner edge of the foot to take more weight and pressure than it should.

Overpronation during pregnancy results from weight gain and a slight change in gait. As your body takes on a different shape, you may begin to walk with your feet further apart or otherwise adjust your stance. This can leave you standing and walking in a flat-footed fashion, which isn’t good for your feet. Overpronation leads to bunions, stress fractures, and other problems.

Women often fail to notice overpronation until it’s become a painful problem. Make an appointment with Dr. Bever or Dr. Schoene at the first sign of trouble to address possible issues with your pronation. This specialist can prescribe orthotic therapy, providing you with specialized devices that will restrict the motion of your foot and relieve pressure on the inner side. This helps to properly distribute weight along your feet so you can walk as comfortably as possible. Using the proper orthotics during pregnancy can also ease pressure and pain in your knees, hips, and back.

How To Care for Your Feet During Pregnancy

Proactive measures can help you avoid many of the more painful problems associated with your feet during pregnancy. Try these tips to keep your feet as comfortable as you can when you’re pregnant:

  • Stay off your feet: Though it’s not always possible to relax as much as you’d like during pregnancy, any extra rest is helpful. Stay off your feet when you can to give them a break, and elevate them as much as possible. Literally putting your feet up at the end of the day or during your midday breaks is one of the best things you can do when you’re pregnant.
  • Wear compression stockings: Compression stockings provide the perfect amount of pressure to your legs when you’re pregnant. Socks that are too tight or too loose may worsen your discomfort or swelling.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: Avoid foods that are high in salt, and drink at least 10 cups of water a day during pregnancy to stay hydrated.
  • Change your sleep position: Sleeping on your left side will keep pressure off the vein that carries blood up to your heart. Placing pillows beneath your legs to raise them above your heart may also help.
  • Wear proper shoes: Walking barefoot can worsen pain and swelling in the feet during pregnancy. Wear shoes that are properly sized and have good arch support. If you’re struggling with overpronation, wearing orthotics may help.
  • Massage your feet: The best advice yet, enlist a massage therapist or your partner to give you regular foot massages.
  • Exercise during pregnancy: Taking regular walks, riding an exercise bike, or swimming will help improve circulation and reduce swelling in your feet. Ankle pumps, where you flex them back and forth, and ankle rotations, where you make circles with your feet, will also help with circulation.

If you’re experiencing a great deal of foot pain and swelling during your pregnancy, it’s best to see a specialist who can address this problem. Dr. Schoene and Dr. Bever are experienced podiatrists who can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan for a more comfortable pregnancy. Contact Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Assoc. today to learn more.