Isn't It Swell
Several factors cause foot pain and swelling, including changes in your center of gravity, weight gain and hormones. The pregnancy hormones relaxin and progesterone, which relax ligaments for childbirth, also loosen foot and hip ligaments.
"One of the more common complaints among pregnant women is plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the large ligament that connects the heel to the ball of the foot," explains Dr Karen Agnich, DPM, a podiatrist in Woodridge, Illinois.
Dr Agnich says, "Gain the recommended amount of weight to avoid foot stress and pressure. Extra weight can irritate the plantar fascia ligament." She also sees many women who need a larger shoe size permanently after their babies arrive.
According to The Pregnancy Book by Dr William Sears, pregnant women can gain up to twenty pounds in blood and fluid volume alone. These fluids can pool in your feet if you stand or sit for long periods of time, so get moving! Walking will help extra blood and fluids go back up to your baby, where they belong. If you're absolutely trapped behind a counter or at your desk, stretch and wiggle your ankles and feet as much as you can.
If the Shoe Fits
"Get out of the shoes you're wearing," says Tom Brunick, director of the Athlete's Foot Stores Research and Development Center in Naperville, Illinois. "You should wear a shoe that fits your foot. You're carrying an important load, so stability, support and foot comfort are huge issues."
Yes, ladies, pack away your stiletto pumps and platform heels until after your baby comes. "Women are staying in their careers longer into pregnancy, so wear athletic shoes to work and as much as you can," advises Brunick. "Save dress shoes for when you really have to wear them." He recommends shoes with a wide base at the ball of the foot and as low a heel as possible for better stability.
Brunick, who also answers questions for the "Ask the Expert" column at theathletesfoot.com, says, "The shoe that fits at three months along might not fit at six months, so you might need to buy more than one pair of shoes during pregnancy."
Dr Agnich agrees, saying, "Don't go barefoot or in stocking feet. Get a nice pair of tie-on walking or cross-training shoes. Don't wear slip-on shoes because they don't give enough support."
Care for your legs
Pull on a pair of medical support hose, which are knitted especially to compress excess fluids out of your legs, ankles and feet. These are available in medical supply stores or pharmacies and aren't as ugly as you think. Choose full-length stockings since the bands on knee-high stockings might constrict blood flow. Don't confuse medical support hose with support pantyhose, which aren't designed to help circulation.
Check with your podiatrist about orthotic shoe inserts. These specially designed inserts redistribute your center of gravity and support your feet. Dr Agnich says, "If over-the-counter inserts work for you, great. If not, you might need a custom-fitted arch support, which a podiatrist can do."
Toe the Line
Make gravity work for you and get off your feet. Elevate your legs above your heart level. If you're more comfortable lying on your side, choose your left side to enhance circulation. Don't feel guilty -- you've got a perfectly legit reason to lie down!
Ask your loved one to rub your feet -- it's his baby, too! A general all-over massage can help revitalize sore feet. But if nobody is around and you can't reach your feet, try rolling your arches over a massage roller, or even use a rolling pin.
Also be sure to drink plenty of liquids, since cutting back on fluids won't diminish swelling. Your body -- and your baby -- needs at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day, as this helps rid your body of toxins.
Hotfoot it to your doc
While orthotic shoe inserts, support stockings and massage can help mild swelling in the feet, heavy swelling can be a serious matter. In some cases, swollen feet can signal preeclampsia, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. Call your doctor if you have severe swelling in your feet, face or hands, sudden weight gain, vision changes or headaches.
For most women, some foot changes (including a possibly permanent shoe size increase due to the effects of the hormone relaxin) are just part and parcel of pregnancy. But if you take just a little time to baby your tootsies, you will find that your feet, legs, back and whole body can benefit.