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Foot Pain During Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

Foot Pain During Pregnancy

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Foot pain may affect a woman some time in her pregnancy. Pain in the feet is usually tolerable and seldom of immense concern. However, there can be times when the pain bothers enough to interfere with daily activities.

But what causes foot pain during pregnancy? How to address and prevent this condition? This MomJunction post guides you on the reasons why feet can become painful when you are pregnant.

Is It Common To Have Painful Feet During Pregnancy?

The aching of feet can be quite common during pregnancy. One may experience painful feet and the associated discomfort towards the end of the second trimester (triggered by edema or swollen feet) and the start of the third trimester (1). According to a study, the pressure on the feet increases during the last trimester, thus increasing the likelihood of foot pain.

Causes Of Foot Pain During Pregnancy

The likely fundamental cause is the extra weight of the body during pregnancy. The following are the reasons that could trigger foot pain:

  • The increase in body weight tends to exert extra pressure on the ligament of the feet (2). A constant strain on the ligament can make it sore and painful.
  • During the advanced stages of pregnancy, the baby bump tends to shift the body’s center of gravity (1). In such a situation, a woman needs to adjust her posture, especially while walking and standing to avoid loss of balance and tripping. The altered posture exerts pressure on the feet, thus leading to foot pain.
  • During the third trimester, there is an increased production of a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin plays a pivotal role in preparing a woman for childbirth by relaxing the pelvic muscles and ligaments. Additionally, the hormone also induces relaxation of the feet muscles and ligaments, leading to inflammation and painful feet (2).
  • Pregnancy can alter the blood flow to the legs, resulting in the retention of fluids in the feet and around the ankles. The condition is called edema and is characterized by swelling in one or both feet (3). Edema happens when the growing uterus exerts pressure on the blood vessels leading to fluid retention in the feet, ankle, and legs (4) (5).
  • The effects of relaxin and increase in body weight can cause over-pronation or flat feet. It happens due to the flattening of the foot’s arch. This condition can strain plantar fascia, the ligament that constitutes the arch and cause pain (6).

Pain in the feet can cause constant discomfort, and you are likely to explore the various ways to ease the ache.

How Do You Relieve And Prevent Foot Pain During Pregnancy?

Yoga and exercises can go a along way in relieving the pain in the feet. Other measures include:

  • Orthotic insoles can provide relief from foot pain, edema, over-pronation, plantar fasciitis, and similar foot-related problems (7). Soft insoles and inserts slide into your shoe or sandal to provide extra support to the arch and feet. These insoles can be bought in a shoe store or be custom-made after consulting a podiatrist.
  • High heels and tight shoes may aggravate the foot pain further and are good to avoid. Instead, go for the low-heeled and comfortable shoes that support your arch, heels, and ankles properly (8).
  • The use of a cold or hot compress may provide relief from foot pain and swelling.
  • Avoid long walks or standing for a long time (5). While standing, keep shifting the weight of your body from one leg to another.
  • Flex and stretch your feet while seated. It could help release some tension in the ligaments of the feet, especially when you have a strained arch of the feet (6).
  • You can take short slow walks to improve circulation and to exercise the ligaments of the feet.
  • While sleeping at night, keep your feet elevated using pillows. It could help improve circulation, reduce edema, and may also keep the feet in a relaxed position (5)
  • Gentle self-massage with hands can help provide relief and also, reduce discomfort. However, do not go for any deep tissue massage without consulting your doctor.

Do not use pain-relief medicines, supplements, acupuncture, and acupressure without first consulting your doctor. If the pain is severe, then see a doctor.

Is Foot Pain A Sign Of Early Pregnancy?

There is no evidence to prove that foot pain is a sign of early pregnancy. Pain in the feet can happen due to multiple reasons. Foot pain and leg cramps may or may not be indicative of early pregnancy. However, it is not a reliable way to determine pregnancy. Therefore, if you have pain in your feet and you think you are pregnant, then see a doctor to confirm pregnancy.

Foot pain, edema, and flat feet are some of the common problems associated with pregnancy. However, a little care and some preventive measures may keep you happily on your toes sans any pain, swelling, or cramps.

Have something to share about foot pain during pregnancy? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

References:

1. Karadag-Saygi E et al., Plantar pressure and foot pain in the last trimester of pregnancy; PubMed.gov, US National Library Of Medicine; National Institutes of Health (NIH); 2010 Feb.
2. Heel Pain and Treatment during Pregnancy; Advanced Foot and Ankle of Wisconsin, LLC.
3. Sylvia Cataldo Oportus et al., Lymph Drainage in Pregnant Women; NCBI; Nursing Research and Practice; 2013 October 22
4. Swollen ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy, The National Health Service (NHS), UK.
5. Dr. Jordan Coauette, MD, Tips to decrease your swollen feet during pregnancy; Sanford Health; 2017 Jul 25
6. Enjoy Pregnancy without Foot Pain, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS); 2009 Dec 30;
7. Prescription Custom Orthotics and Shoe Inserts; American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), Advancing Foot and Ankle Medicine and Surgery;
8. Treating Joint Pain Naturally During Pregnancy; American Pregnancy Association.

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