Foot health

14 September 2011

Foot aches and pains during pregnancy

While morning sickness, fatigue, and back pain are regular complaints during pregnancy, foot problems are just as common, mostly during the last trimester.


While morning sickness, fatigue, and back pain are regular complaints during pregnancy, foot problems are just as common, mostly during the last trimester. Fortunately, chances are these ailments will disappear after you deliver.

Dr Brandon Maggen, a podiatrist, says this is caused by the sudden increase of weight in your body causing the bones in your feet that support the body “to splay out”. “This increase in weight happens too quickly for the feet to adjust,” he said.

Fluid retention is particularly pronounced in your feet, ankles, and calves because the growing uterus puts pressure on the veins that carry blood back from your lower body. This partially blocks blood flow, keeping fluid in your legs and feet.

Dr Maggen said your pregnancy should not necessarily be linked with foot aches and pains. “Foot aches and pains could also be caused by pre existing problems,” he said.

Blood vessels are also smallest in your feet and ankles, so your body has difficulty accommodating the extra fluid pouring in there.

You should be monitored –  women of normal weight should gain 11 to 15 kilos during pregnancy. “Eat for one, and eat healthy snacks,” Dr Maggan added. Excessive weight gain exacerbates swelling (oedema) and can lead to other problems.

 What is Oedema?

“Oedema is swelling of ankles to the extent that you cannot see the ankle bone. This is caused by insufficient return of blood flow from your lower body,” he explained. He added that this is because of pressure on the kidneys –  when they are pushed back by the womb, blood pressure on the abdominal area is increased.

Beginning early in your pregnancy, alternate circulation-boosting exercise with the proper amount of rest. Also elevate those feet and legs. This can prevent foot and leg problems from developing in the first place.

Dr Maggen said you can avoid oedema by being physically active. “You must exercise regularly, run,  wear compressive stockings and good supportive footwear. He also mentioned that you can do any exercise that will focus on your feet. “Walk or run, but moderate the tempo and walk fast,” he said.

“When you are about 9 months, there is nothing stopping you from doing foot movements when you are lying down. Visit a podiatrist and let him assess your feet,” he advised.
Here some of the things you can do:

  • Elevate your feet as often as you can. Try to raise your legs 15 to 30 cm above your heart for 15 to 20 minutes, to help the blood flow back to your heart and lungs.
  • Sleep on your side, not your back. This relieves pressure on the vena cava, the largest vein leading to the heart. Otherwise the pressure slows the blood returning from your lower body.
  • Consume a lot of fluids. Dehydration worsens swelling.
  • Improve the circulation in your ankles with rotation exercises. Try sitting with one leg raised. Rotate your ankle 10 times to the right, then to the left. Switch legs. Repeat 10 times.
  • Ice your ankles. With your feet up, apply ice to the inside of your ankles for 15 to 20 minutes every half hour to an hour.

(Health24, Ncumisa Magadla, September 2011)

Sources: Dr Brandon Maggen (podiatrist), Parents, Everyday Health


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