Feet. We put them through a lot, don’t we? From cramming them in to ridiculously high heels to pounding the pavement day in, day out, our tootsies have a lot to contend with. And that’s before you add a rapidly growing bump to the equation…
“Weight gain and hormonal changes in pregnancy have a huge impact on the body – and your feet can often bear the brunt of this,” says Emma Stevenson, a podiatrist and member of The College of Podiatry (www.scpod.org). “Having given birth to my own son Oliver back in February, I’ve gone through these problems myself! From foot pain and swelling to excess hard skin and even going up a shoe size, you’ll find by the end of nine months your feet won’t look like they did at the start of your pregnancy.”
The reasons behind this are mainly down to the weight gain that comes with having a baby, as your centre of gravity alters and creates additional pressure on your knees and feet. It can be uncomfortable – and your feet may not be a pretty sight – but the following tips and tricks overleaf can help…
MY FEET ARE SWOLLEN
“During pregnancy, the uterus can place pressure on your veins, preventing fluid from travelling as effectively as it once did,” says Emma. “As a result you may experience swelling in your feet and ankles, potentially causing ingrown toenails, corns and calluses. You may experience issues as your footwear no longer fits correctly too.”
Rest up whenever possible, taking pressure off those poor tootsies and getting your partner to do those chores while you give your feet a break. Keeping feet up at waist height will drain fluid more effectively.
Massage can also work wonders – so why not book up for a foot massage, ensuring you’ve told your therapist you’re expecting beforehand so she knows what type of oils to avoid. If you’re on a budget a simple DIY pedicure works wonders, roping a trusty mate in and getting them to massage from the toes up to the ankle, then the ankle up to the knee. This encourages the fluid out of the foot area and will provide a temporary relief – as well as feeling amazing. Tie in with a good old foot scrub to get rid of all that dead skin build up, and see if he or she will paint your toenails a pretty colour too!
MY FEET HURT
“Conditions such as ingrown toenails, corns and calluses can worsen as the pressures on your feet change,” says Emma. “If you have problems with your foot structure, you can start to experience increased pain due to the change in your posture and walking style – known as your gait. With all the hormones that your body is experiencing it is especially important to wear appropriate footwear, as the relaxin hormone – released to prepare your pelvis and cervix to give birth – will also ease the ligaments throughout the body. After the baby is born you may also experience stiffness and pain in your joints. In many cases this is perfectly normal, however if you experience any localised pain and swelling in any joints such as those in your hands and feet, especially first thing in the morning or later in the evening, then see a podiatrist to rule out any conditions such as auto-immune arthritis.”
Watch your diet when taking care of your feet while pregnant, avoiding excess salt as this causes your body to hold on to more fluid – a definite no-no in this instance! Dehydration is also another vital area to consider – it’ll make those poorly feet worse – so drink fluids regularly to literally keep yourself healthy from top-to-toe. Exercise, too, should be part and parcel of your daily foot care routine, stretching your feet and calves if you’ve been sitting or driving for a long period of time – and remembering not to cross your legs or ankles when sitting. Rotating your ankles 10 times to the left and 10 times to the right is another great tip, or you could incorporate gentle exercise such as swimming in to your day, remembering to check with your midwife or GP to ensure they agree it is safe for you to do so.
MY FEET ARE BIGGER
“It’s not uncommon for women to notice that they have gone up a shoe size during pregnancy,” says Emma. “This is usually due to swelling in the feet and is temporary – however, in some cases, the hormonal changes that your body goes through can allow your foot shape to change. You should also make sure you stay in regular touch with a podiatrist if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which can have serious effects on the feet if not controlled.”
It might sound obvious but the way to ensure a comfortable pregnancy with your feet is again all about wearing the correct footwear! Put those high heels away and instead invest in comfortable shoes that won’t constrict your circulation, choosing something with a broad heel, arch support and good shock absorbency. Make sure you go shopping for your new purchases late in the day, as your feet will be less swollen in the morning after a night of rest. And don’t forget to avoid laces, too – as that bump gets bigger it’s only going to get harder to reach (or even see) your feet, plus you don’t want anything that constricts that circulation. Our advice? Velcro straps are the way to go.
IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT FOOT PAIN OR SWELLING, CONSULT A DOCTOR OR MIDWIFE IMMEDIATELY
“In rare cases swelling of the feet and ankles can be a sign of pre-eclampsia,” warns Emma. “If you notice a sudden or excessive swelling in your feet and ankles, swelling around your face or significant swelling of the hands then you should seek advice immediately from your midwife or GP.”