Being pregnant is an incredibly exciting time - and one filled with continuous change. While the baby is rapidly growing and developing, the
expecting mother is too - her centre of gravity is shifting forwards which throws off the natural balance she has known all her life,
hormones are causing her ligaments to loosen and soften, her blood volume can double, her weight increases on average by between 12-16kgs -
and through these and many more changes, it’s her feet that are responsible for supporting her and continuing to take her wherever she
wants to go.
It’s no surprise then that foot pain and discomfort is a common occurrence in pregnancy - and one that can significantly interfere with an expecting mother’s ability to work, perform regular daily tasks and limit healthy exercise levels that are recommended in pregnancy. All of this can ultimately affect her mental and emotional well-being, at a time where emotions are already heightened and discomfort can take shape in various other common forms, like pregnancy back pain.
If you’re experiencing foot pain or discomfort, here are the top five ways to help stay comfortable on your feet throughout your pregnancy, as recommended by our Brisbane podiatrists.
Pregnancy results in many women gaining between half a shoe size and a whole shoe size in the length of their feet, while they feet grow wider, too. The feet don’t actually grow, but change due to a hormone called relaxin that is released to loosen the ligaments and tissues around your pelvis to help prepare you for childbirth. While it does a great job of this, it also acts on other ligaments in the body, including the feet. Given the weight our feet have to support every day, the pressure paired with stretchier ligaments means the feet can flatten, making them appear longer and wider.
When we see pregnant women with foot pain, we often notice that their shoes are no longer suitable for their feet in pregnancy - both in their size, and in the greater level of support that the feet now need to stay comfortable and moving well. Additionally, swelling in the feet and ankles is another common occurrence in pregnancy, so shoes may also now feel too tight. To help, we recommend:
During pregnancy, most women’s blood volume increases by an average of 50% - but for some their blood volume may even double. That’s a lot of extra blood circulating through your arteries - and a massive responsibility on the veins in your legs to work overtime to return the blood back up against gravity, to the heart. Paired with the growing uterus putting pressure on the surrounding vessels, and a common result is swelling in the feet, ankles and lower legs.
While elevating your feet, avoiding sitting and standing for prolonged periods, and maintaining good hydration can help you start to manage swelling, a much more effective and constant way to help manage and prevent swelling is to wear medical-grade compression socks. These are not the standard compression gear that you may wear during social sports or to help limit the motion in a joint, but medical devices that have a mmHg rating (e.g. 15-20mmHg) and must be measured according to your calf size to help find the best fit.
Walking isn’t just good for our physical health in general, but our feet too by promoting circulation and engaging the muscles and tissues in the feet to help support their flexibility and strength. Regular gentle exercise also helps support healthy weight gain (as opposed to excess weight gain), while also being shown in studies to be associated with a lower risk of postpartum weight retention, thereby supporting our feet both during and after pregnancy. Walking has plenty of other benefits too, including helping lower the risk of gestational diabetes by 20% and lowering the risk of pre-eclampsia by 33%.
In terms of how much walking is required to reap these benefits, start with half an hour per day, and increase it depending on what feels comfortable and achievable for your body. Ideally, you want to start your regular walking as early possible (from early to mid pregnancy) and continue into your third trimester depending on what is safe and comfortable for you.
When you’re wearing your orthotics, they give your feet the best support, control and comfort. To optimise your comfort throughout the day - and throughout your pregnancy, we recommend dedicating a pair of ‘inside shoes’ that host your orthotics inside the house, as well as wearing them outside the house. This means your orthotics can keep working to support your balance and stability (which is important given the shift in your centre of gravity), help prevent tired achy legs, support weak ankles that may have been affected by the loosening relaxin hormone, give you arch support, maximise your comfort, and work in the other ways that were custom-prescribed by your podiatrist following a comprehensive assessment of your feet and ankles.
If you’ve never had foot orthoses before, they are a custom prescription device, created uniquely much like how custom glasses are prescribed for your eyes. Your podiatrist will perform a 3D foot scan to capture your feet perfectly, and then take a series of measurements, including a video gait analysis, pressure mapping, strength and flexibility testing, and foot posture testing. The results of these tests, paired with getting to know you, inform us on the best features for your orthotics to maximise your comfort and reduce your risk of foot pain throughout your pregnancy.
While there are many things we can do to help reduce our risk of a range of pains and problems, if you’re experiencing foot pain in pregnancy or you have foot concerns that you want practical solutions for based on your unique circumstances, we highly recommend booking in with one of our Brisbane podiatrists. We see women throughout their pregnancy for care including:
We understand the challenges faced during pregnancy and are here to help. To get started, book your appointment with our podiatrists in our Brisbane CBD or Newmarket clinics online here or call us on 1300 993 338.