How To Care For Your Feet During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, our feet take the brunt of both rapid weight gain and hormonal changes, so it’s wise to treat them with as much tender, loving care as possible, Bernice Barrington reports.
Leonardo Da Vinci once described the foot as ‘a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art’. But for most of us, our feet are the last thing we pay attention to – that is, until pregnancy arrives and they suddenly begin changing (and aching) in all kind of unexpected ways.
The chief culprit, of course, is weight gain. Average-sized women are advised to gain between 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, which, while healthy and essential, also puts a lot of extra pressure on the lower limbs, including the feet.
Then there’s the small matter of the extra hormones being produced, such as progesterone and relaxin, which help loosen the ligaments in preparation for childbirth. These loosened ligaments are more susceptible to injury than they would normally be, especially in the legs and back. “The changes in your body and feet can come as quite a shock,” agrees podiatrist Gillian Fox. “You will often find that, because of the changes, none of your regular shoes fit anymore, and for some women, come six months, they can’t even reach their feet.
For Gillian, preparation is key. “A lot of women will come into me in their first trimester, and we will just talk through what’s in front of them. The key, during pregnancy, is to keep your feet in good condition, wear shoes that are suitable, and get lots of fluids and rest.
One thing that can really take expectant mums by surprise is the fact that their feet can often go up a size – or even two – while pregnant. “This is because the weight of the body causes the arch of the foot to become compressed which, in turn, lengthens and widens the foot,” says Gillian. She advises investing in at least one pair of ‘pregnancy shoes’.
It’s a bit like pregnancy clothes, really. You may have to buy a couple of shoes specifically for pregnancy, which you may never wear again, but it’s more than worth it for the comfort.” She advocates doing your research and investing in tried-and-tested brands, which are wide-fitting, comfortable and offer good arch support.
If you work in an office, it can often be a good idea to wear a pair of low, comfortable shoes while working at your desk, but keep a spare pair of dressier ones for when you need to meet clients or attend meetings.
Are high heels an option?
Gillian acknowledges that for some women, dressing smartly is part of their job, and this includes high heels. But are they completely ruled out during pregnancy? “In the latter stages of pregnancy, very high heels are going to be extremely difficult, simply because it will be very hard to balance, and you won’t be comfortable in them. Better go for a low heel, which gives you a bit of a lift, but will prevent you tottering.”
Overpronation and Oedema (swelling)
Overpronation, otherwise know as flat-foot, is where a person's arch flattens out and their feet roll inwards when walking. It is often cited as one of the side-effects of pregnancy and can be extremely painful, although Gillian says the condition is quite rare. If it does occur, however, the podiatrist may prescribe an orthotic insole for you to wear in your shoes to ease the discomfort.
Swelling of the feet (oedema), on the other hand, is very common. ldquo;You’re carrying a lot more weight and you’ve got a couple of extra pints of fluid in your body, so some swelling is normal,” Gillian says. She advises getting plenty of rest, and elevating your legs and feet as much as possible: “Try the ‘half-sitting’ position on the couch, with a few cushions under your knees, feet and head. This allows excess fluid to drain back into the kidneys, to be flushed out of the system.”
However, if swelling becomes severe (especially in the legs) Gillian advises contacting your local GP. “Severe swelling can be an indication of blood pressure issues, so make sure to check with your doctor if you’re in any doubt.”
Another condition pregnant women often suffer from is extremely dry skin on the feet. “The baby is taking all the nutrients from your body, which can lead to extreme cracking and dryness of the feet. The key is to make sure to exfoliate, massage and moisturise your feet and legs, which will also reduce fluid build up. If you can’t do that yourself, book yourself in with your local chiropodist who will remove the excess dry skin for you.”
Leg Cramps and Varicose veins
Leg cramps are another extremely painful side effect of pregnancy. Although experts can’t agree on what causes them, some doctors suspect they may have something to do with dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Again, Gillian recommends lots of rest and elevation of the leg area. “If the cramping is very severe, it might suggest an issue with the vascular area and I would suggest going to your GP,” she says.
Varicose veins also frequently make an appearance when a woman is pregnant.“Too much standing with all that excess weight is really the culprit here. Again, make sure to drink lots of fluids and rest regularly. I’d also recommend support tights, which are tighter at the bottom so as to prevent excess fluid entering the feet.”
While standing for long periods of time is not recommended for pregnant women, Gillian does recommend exercise and keeping mobile: “Swimming is terrific, because it takes the weight off the body and allows the back to rest. And, of course, walking is excellent too.”
She says the runners you choose do not have to be expensive, just comfortable and with good support. Ultimately, Gillian recommends doing what you’re comfortable with, but being kind to yourself too. “You do need to rest, especially as you get heavier. So be aware of that.”
To nail varnish or not to nail varnish
It can be difficult to even reach one’s feet while pregnant, but for many women having pretty toenails can cheer them up when the rest of their body feels a bit out of control. Gillian is all in favour of this, but warns against any kind of gel nails the nearer you get to your due date.
“The reason is linked to the possibility of having to have an emergency Caesarean section. If this occurs, you will not be allowed to wear coloured varnish [into theatre] because the anaesthetist must be able to see the nail in order to judge the oxygen supply. If it’s a gel nail polish that needs to be removed, that can be a problem.”
She adds that gel nail varnishes can also be breeding grounds for infections, as fungal nail infections can develop below the varnish. If in doubt, stick to a clear non-gel polish in the final month of pregnancy.
Read Next: What Are The Best Shoes For Busy Moms?
Gillian’s foot tips for new mums
1. Don’t be surprised if your foot size doesn’t go back to normal for a few months after pregnancy. It’s taken nine months to get to this point, so it may take another few months to revert back.
2. Don’t be afraid to get out and about with your baby. Walking will help you lose the baby weight and being out in the fresh air is good not just for the body but for the mind also.
3. Invest in a good pair of runners, preferably one size bigger than your normal shoe size. This is because feet naturally swell during a workout.
4. Visit your chiropodist before you go back to work to make sure you’re in tip-top shape for a return to the stilettos!
For more information on Gillian Fox podiatrist, see podiatrictreatment.com, Podiatrictreatment on Facebook or tel: 083 1661531