How do my feet change during pregnancy?

Congratulations, you are pregnant! So what does this mean for your feet?

Throughout pregnancy there are a number of changes that happen to a woman’s body in order for her to grow a healthy baby. Hormones and weight gain can cause all sorts of changes to the female’s body when pregnant. As a woman’s stomach becomes bigger,  the way in which her body’s load is distributed changes and this can cause painful feet and ankles which are often overlooked! Other changes can include increased hard skin build up on the feet also. 

So what are the main changes to the feet and legs that occur during pregnancy?

  • Changes in foot length, width and arch height
  • Changes to ligaments and soft tissues
  • Swelling and ankle pain
  • Increased build of hard skin on the plantar surface of the foot

Most of these changes are attributed to a hormone released during pregnancy called Relaxin. This hormone is released during the first trimester and loosens ligaments and muscles which prepare you for labour towards the end of pregnancy.

Changes to foot posture

During pregnancy, the excretion of the hormone Relaxin lowers your arch height and relaxes your soft tissues, leaving you with wider and flatter foot, which possibly results in having to size up your shoes! This change to your feet puts excess strain on the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon which can lead to arch and heel pain. Other changes include an anterior pelvic tilt (increased curve in the lower spine due to the belly growth) and internal tibial rotation (twisting of the lower leg) as your centre of gravity moves forward!

Ligament Laxity

During pregnancy you may feel your ankles become looser and weaker! This can lead to ankle instability and increase your chances of rolling your ankles!

Swollen feet!

During pregnancy it is common that your feet may swell, it most often occurs in the later part of pregnancy. This is due to the strain of your growing uterus on blood vessels in the lower part of the body causing an interruption in circulation. Your feet may begin to feel puffy, swollen or tight.  Make sure to be careful and watch out for ingrown toenails and interdigital corns from continuing to wear shoes that are NOT wide enough for your foot during pregnancy. Wearing compression socks or stockings can sometimes assist with fluid retention, as can elevating your feet when you’re sitting down.

Hard skin

Another common occurrence during pregnancy is the build up of calluses (hard skin) of the heels which may also crack. This is the body’s way of protecting your foot as weight continues to increase throughout pregnancy! Hormone changes are also responsible for changes in skin elasticity and moisture levels within the skin. It is important to apply a urea based emollient throughout pregnancy to ensure optimal hydration!

Though pregnancy is a short term experience, many of the foot and ankle problems that develop during pregnancy can linger for a long time afterwards. Many of our patients always say their foot “grew after having babies” but in fact it’s the above changes to the soft tissue structures, causing the foot to flatten which is the culprit. Seeing a Podiatrist for any changes to the feet can help to alleviate any aches or pains you may be feeling, and help keep you active and healthy during and after your pregnancy. 

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