Pregnancy triggers a wide range of changes in a women’s body. The additional weight in the torso has immediate effects such as increased curvature in the lower back and forward tilt of the pelvis. When a women’s center of gravity is altered, the weight bearing stance also changes. This can cause increased demand on the muscles of the hips, legs and ankles. These changes contribute to the characteristic posture and gait associated with the pregnant women.
A common complaint, often overlooked, of women during pregnancy, is foot pain. Women adjust their pattern of walking during pregnancy to improve stability. This is done to accommodate for obvious shifts in weight distribution and center of gravity, and requires muscles in the hips, pelvis, legs and ankles to work differently.
Symptom of pregnant foot discomfort
The primary problem that occurs with pregnancy is over pronating of the foot. Over pronating is the indirect cause of pain under the bottom of the heel called Plantar Fasciitis, on top of the instep, under the balls of your feet called metatarsalgia, big toe joint causing bunion to occur and discomfort on the inside of your knees, to mention just a few. Also common during pregnancy are painful calluses, corns and cracked heels. These complaints are indicative of the underlying problem of your foot flattening and spreading out while your shoes remain the same size.
Cause of pregnant foot discomfort
There are several changes associated with the foot during pregnancy. The first is an increase in volume or size caused by edema (swelling). Second is the change in the center line of gravity due to the bearing stance of the pregnant women. Third is the looseness or laxity of the ligaments that support your foot. The first two are well documented causes of foot discomfort but the third is the most overlooked. Laxity of the ligaments, commonly called ligamentous laxity, is caused by a hormone called relaxin which is the same hormone that is loosening the ligaments of the birth canal and pelvis in preparation for delivery. This hormone does not target only the birthing ligaments, and has wide ranging effects throughout the body. The ligaments that hold the 26 bones of your foot can be affected, and as these ligaments loosen the arch of the foot collapses or over pronates. All of these conditions usually create foot discomfort or pain. Also, studies in the journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association have shown that the changes in the way a women walks during pregnancy have lasting effects and may not return to normal following birth.
Treatment of pregnant foot discomfort
Unfortunately for many women, problems associated with their feet are often not addressed adequately. Complaints in the feet, knees and hips are often deemed secondary and dismissed in the hope that the problem will resolve spontaneously after birth. This lack of concern can cause further damage to the feet after the pregnancy and may lead to deformities that may require surgery to repair.
The first step in addressing your foot pain is to remove any potential interference with your changing foot. To help with the swelling, soak your feet in cold water and prop them up to help with drainage. Buy a few new pairs of roomy comfortable shoes. Avoid the use of shoes with heels as these only accentuate the problems in your foot at a time when it is at its weakest structurally. In addition, the use of compression hosiery will help with the swelling of the legs and feet and reduce some of the fatigue related to the swelling.
The over pronating associated with pregnancy is best treated with a shoe that has good stability, and over-the-counter arch support or a custom made orthotic. In fact, pregnancy provides an opportunity to address foot problems while your feet are going through the ligamentous laxity change of pregnancy and able to adapt to a new position. Using this time while you are pregnant to support your feet in a new corrected position will allow proper functioning and decreased pain for years to come.
Early preventative treatment is crucial for avoiding the development of other foot problems associated with over pronation.