Changes in Your Feet During Pregnancy
Creating new life is the most natural of gifts given to humankind. It’s wondrous, exciting and fulfilling. But, anyone who believes that carrying an unborn child for 9 months is nothing but pure bliss, is very much mistaken.
Pregnancy causes almost incalculable changes in the body during a small window of time, both mentally and physically, like no other natural bodily phenomenon. During pregnancy a woman receives prenatal care to monitor her own health and that of her unborn child. And yet, probably the hardest working part of the body seems to be given scant little consideration.
Taken for granted, out of eye line, so often used and abused, little thought is given to the feet. These loyal appendatures rarely let an individual down, regardless of common neglect. However, as any woman that has gone through pregnancy can testify, at no other time in their life do they become more aware of their feet. Pregnancy can bring about, or exasperate, a multitude of podiatric issues which need to be understood, and where necessary attended to.
Flat Feet in Pregnancy
Having flat feet is a common affliction across the populous which becomes more evident during pregnancy. From conception onwards a woman steadily gains weight, averaging between 20-40 pounds, depending on the individual body mass index. Whatever the weight gain, the trusty old feet give support and balance to all that mass bearing down on them.
Taking this extra stress can cause the feet to flatten and roll inwards, this is known as over pronation. This additional strain on the foot can cause pain to varying degrees and this stress can then go up the calves and to the back. There is also some evidence to suggest that the hormone Relaxin is a contributory factor in the flattening of the feet. Relaxin is generated by the body to help relax ligaments, it is this loosening of the ligaments that is thought to exasperate the flattening of the arches.
Wearing suitable footwear which give good support to the arch of the foot is essential. During pregnancy, abandoning the pursuit of vanity in the choice of footwear will be very much appreciated by the feet. Orthotics can also have a significant positive effect in helping to reduce the flattening of the foot and the discomfort that results from the condition. Designed to help correct biomedical problems, they assist in maintaining a correct stance of the foot and to relieve discomfort when standing or walking.
Dry and Cracked Heels
During pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes massive hormonal changes. These changes can lead to a reduced level of moisture retention and elasticity of the skin. This can result in dry and cracked skin around the heels. This is, at best, unsightly, at worst, if left untreated, cracks can become infected which threatens the overall health of the expectant mother.
A good aid in the prevention and treatment of dry and cracked skin is the application of a urea based moisturizing cream. Cream can be applied by hand or by massaging it into the skin using a small sponge, this method helps to get the cream deep into the skin.
Oedema of the Feet
Oedema, in simple terms refers to swelling. There are many mothers that can give testimony to how common, and how uncomfortable, oedema is during pregnancy. From the hands, upper and lower legs to the feet, oedema is extremely common, but it is in the feet where it can be the most uncomfortable and debilitating. During pregnancy, increased blood pressure and volume can lead to water retention, this is what creates the oedema, or swelling, in the feet.
In an effort to reduce oedema in the feet and the associated problems it causes, it is essential that the sufferer maintains regular movement. This helps to stimulate blood circulation, thus reducing the pooling of fluids in the legs and feet. This is particularly important from the second trimester onwards.
Of course, during pregnancy it is important to get plenty of rest, but if your lifestyle tends to be somewhat sedentary, it is vital to break long periods of inactivity with gentle walks. Also, during periods of rest, keeping the feet raised will reduce the risk of swelling. The limiting of blood volume will also aid in the reduced risk of foot oedema, reducing salt intake and staying fully hydrated will help in stemming the increase of blood volume.
Surprisingly, pregnant women are far more susceptible to suffering from ingrowing toenails. With increased blood volume, toenails grow quicker during the 9 months of carrying an unborn child. The cause of the increased risk of ingrowing toenails is largely because the foot alters in size, shape and positioning due to weight gain. With the increased pressure put upon the foot the toenails can be forced into the surrounding skin. This can be compounded by tight or ill-fitting shoes or excessive exercise.
For some relief from ingrowing toenails, warm salt water baths can be beneficial. Not only is this relaxing for a pregnant woman, but it will help to relieve pain and soften the skin which can then be gently pushed away from the nail. With that said, ingrowing toenails need to be assessed by a professional who can then administer the appropriate treatment. This is best done by making an appointment with your local independent podiatric clinic.
Other Nail Changes During Pregnancy
During pregnancy the unborn child draws enormous amounts of nutrients from the woman’s body. This can deprive other parts of the body of the normal, required level of sustenance. The toenails, being the furthest extremity of the body, are at obvious risk of this deprivation.
As the toenails become starved of the normal and necessary level of nutrients they can become brittle and grooves can grow into the surface of the nails. They can become discoloured or darker in appearance, white lines may appear in the nails, known as melanonychia, which originate in the nail bed. In extreme cases, nails can become loose and even detached. These issues can be treated by your local independent clinic and will usually desist after pregnancy.
Foot Cramps During Pregnancy
Cramp is an involuntary spasm of a muscle, or muscles, that causes pain, which at times can be excruciating. It is not fully understood why, but women become more prone to this unpredictable affliction during pregnancy. This could be simply because the muscles in the feet tire more quickly due to weight gain, or down to a fluctuation in calcium concentration. Although foot cramps can occur at any time, they are more common at night.
To help combat foot cramps it is essential that a pregnant woman balances rest and exercise. Long periods of lethargy are not recommended as are long periods of perpendicular activity. Ensuring a healthy intake of vitamins and minerals and remaining fully hydrated can help to alleviate the risk of suffering foot cramps.
Prevention and Self Awareness
Pregnant women are monitored throughout their pregnancy by professional medical personnel, tests are done and appraisals made and advice is given. But every woman also needs to be very self-aware, particularly of their, oh so neglected, feet. Inspecting the feet, visually and by touch, can be invaluable. Checks should be made for any changes in the colour of the skin and the nails, feel for texture changes or patches of heat.
Pregnant women need rest although exercise is absolutely necessary, but without over exertion. When sitting, it is better to sit with the feet elevated, and when sleeping, lying on your side is better than on your back. Consuming plenty of liquids is very important, as is cutting down on the caffeine and salt intake. Rotational exercises of the foot at the ankle are good for circulation, and icing the ankles can be of great relief for aches and swelling.
However well-intentioned you are towards the health of your feet, nothing can substitute professional advice and treatment. The UK is very fortunate in the number of independent podiatric clinics it has dotted across the country, making it easy for expectant mothers to have a foot health check-up and to get expert advice.
Being pregnant, an expectant mother will not want to be travelling vast distances. Fortunately, there are clinics that are situated in locations that are easily accessible from a wide catchment area. It is also important to be able to speak with a professional that understands the issues expectant mothers face and can empathize with their problems.
One such professional is Rebekah Henning. With her comprehensive knowledge and experience, she is ideally placed to, not only assess and treat foot health issues, but also to listen to the concerns of the expectant mother. Rebekah’s professional knowledge of the foot health problems that expectant mothers face is based on an empathetic understanding which is invaluable. Expectant mothers should not hesitate in contacting Feet@theclinic, Loughborough, Leicestershire, where minds and feet can be put at rest.