What You Should Know About Your Feet During Pregnancy

When you're pregnant, you have a lot of changes going on in your body. One of the areas that can change dramatically are your feet. During and after they bear the additional weight of a pregnancy, they can definitely change and grow. Plus, hormonal changes can lead to swelling and pain as you near your due date. But what's to be expected?

Swelling is Normal

About three-quarters of pregnant women experience at least some swelling in their feet and ankles beginning in the middle to end of the second trimester. This fluid retention, called edema, is usually harmless and happens because your body fluids, including water and blood, are increasing to support your baby. 

The gradually increasing pressure on the veins around your pelvic area can also cause blood to stay in your lower body, which leads to swelling in your extremities. 

It may sound counter-intuitive, but to help reduce swelling in your feet, drink plenty of water. This can flush out salt that increases fluid retention. You can also try:

  • Staying off your feet. Sit if you've been standing.
  • Moving around a bit on a regular basis. While you don't want to spend lots of time standing in one place, a short walk can help get circulation moving, which helps clear out fluids.
  • Sleeping on your side. Spending time on your left side may help your kidneys work more efficiently to remove excess fluids.
  • Wearing supportive shoes and socks. 

If you swell a great deal quickly, and you have other symptoms like dizziness or a nasty headache, call your doctor. These can be signs of preeclampsia, a condition that can be serious and should be monitored closely.

Foot Growth May Be Unavoidable

It's not your imagination: Your feet actually have grown bigger as your pregnancy has advanced. That's because of a hormone called relaxin that loosens all your joints and ligaments. Relaxin helps your pelvic area widen and prepare for giving birth, but it doesn't discriminate -- the joints and ligaments in your feet also get looser and spread out.

Some women's feet will go back to their regular size after giving birth, though it may happen gradually. But about 60 to 70 percent of women have permanent changes to their feet -- a flatter arch and a wider foot that can require a new shoe size. 

During pregnancy, try to wear supportive shoes that are wider to accommodate your bigger feet. Some women put on sandals or flip-flops, but a shoe with a supportive arch is recommended by podiatrists to help you retain your original foot shape. After you have delivered, your podiatrist can assess your feet and help you determine what the best types of support are helpful to keep your feet in the best shape and allow you to return to your former level of activity.

Talk to your obstetrician or podiatrist if you have questions about how your feet are changing during your pregnancy.