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By Shannon Leighton, RPN
Advanced Foot Care Nurse
Changes During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is such an amazing time in your life. Your body is changing quickly and it seems like every day brings something new, both physically and emotionally. Those physical changes aren’t limited to your belly getting bigger, although some of the symptoms you are experiencing are a direct result. During the 9 months of pregnancy a woman’s body goes through many changes and though feet are not a primary focus, they are subject to the changes that pregnancy brings. While these changes support and prepare the body for pregnancy and child birth, some women may experience some of the uncomfortable effects associated with this time. Below I will cover some of the most common symptoms and how to treat them.
One of the essential hormones present throughout the entire pregnancy is called relaxin. In the last trimester of pregnancy, relaxin is responsible for relaxing the ligaments around the hips and pelvis. Although this is important to childbirth, the presence of relaxin may cause other ligaments in the legs, knees and ankles to become more flexible as well and make you feel unsteady at times.
Throughout pregnancy our body is responsible for supporting an additional weight load. Under normal circumstances the body can accommodate for additional weight but with the presence of relaxin the body is prone to developing an injury. Pregnancy weight causes increased stress on already relaxed ligaments which may cause postural changes in feet and legs – thus increasing muscle aches and tension. Over-pronation or more commonly known as “flat feet” is one postural change that may happen during pregnancy. This happens when the arch in the foot flattens while weight bearing and causes the foot to roll inward while walking due to the effects of relaxin and the additional weight. Over-pronation may cause pain when walking and increase the amount of strain on the feet, calves and back and can also lead to more serious conditions such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, bunions – just to name a few. Problems related to over-pronation should be treated to reduce pain and prevent more serious conditions. Interventions should include comfortable/supportive footwear and orthotics which can be properly fitted by a podiatrist to provide arch support.
Many women experience edema (swelling) in the lower legs and feet, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy. Increased blood volume and water retention increase the pressure on the blood vessels in the legs and pelvis. Hot and burning sensations in the feet are also commonly reported during pregnancy, this is due to the changes in weight, edema and the pregnancy hormones that may increase body temperature. In some cases, women have report the inability to sleep due to the uncomfortable sensations. It is very important to know, some more serious conditions can also cause a hot and burning sensation and an obstetrician should rule out any other possibilities. To reduce edema there are a few tips:
- Elevate your feet as much as possible
- If traveling/driving for long periods of time, take frequent breaks to stretch your legs
- Exercise regularly
- Wear loose fitting socks (eg. diabetic socks)
- Wear comfortable supportive shoes, have your feet measured throughout your pregnancy to ensure you are wearing proper fitting footwear
- Eat a healthy diet low in sodium
- Drink plenty of water, the body will retain less fluid if it is well hydrated
Foot wear that fits properly is a must during pregnancy. Shoes should be comfortable, have appropriate arch support and be shock absorbing. Feet should be measured a few times throughout pregnancy if you are concerned with fit, this will ensure the shoes are not contributing to discomfort. Finally, orthotics should be fitted by a registered professional.
Skin Care and Nail Care
As pregnancy progresses many women find it difficult to care for their own feet. To promote overall foot health, find a registered advanced foot care nurse to provide care. Foot care nurses are educated to identify issues related to pregnancy and foot health, can safely trim nails, assess the skin and provide skin care.
Enjoy every moment of your pregnancy – enjoy all of the changes that your body will experience. And don’t forget to take care of your feet!!
Shannon Leighton is a Registered Practical Nurse who is certified in foot care. She is based out of Orangeville, Ontario, Canada. If you are in the Orangeville area and would like to benefit from her services, you can contact her at:
Barefoot Health by Shannon
67 First Street, Unit 1B
Orangeville, ON L9W 2E6