Flattened Arches, Heel Pain, and Swollen Feet in Pregnancy

Husband massaging pregnant wife's feet. An easy way to help with swollen pregnant feet.

As you progress in your pregnancy, you will likely become aware of a somewhat uncomfortable truth: your own emotional needs and physical well-being are no longer your body’s highest priority.

Instead, your body has been converted into a baby factory, and the progress of that ongoing project takes precedence over all else.

The process of making a new human is indeed miraculous, but the growing uterus and concomitant weight gain, emotional roller coasters, and other not-so-pleasant phenomena of pregnancy can make the miracle hard-earned.

This article focuses on feet and ankle conditions during pregnancy, or “pregnant feet” so to speak.

Swollen feet and pregnant woman

Much of the weight gained during pregnancy is attributable to the growth of the baby and its immediate surroundings. Mom’s body fluids also increase, as a great deal more blood is needed to carry oxygen and nutrients to that adorable work in progress.

Since the feet are at the bottom of the body, the converging effects of weight gain and gravity naturally affect them the most.

Edema, what is it?

As the baby grows, the additional weight compresses the veins surrounding the uterus, which makes it harder to pump the depleted blood back to the heart, lungs, and stomach lining for oxygen and nutrient reloading.

As a result, fluid gathers in the feet. The consequent swelling is known as “edema in feet,” and it can be both inconvenient and uncomfortable.

Heel pain during pregnancy

The new weight also tends to flatten the feet, and this can painfully stretch the plantar fascia.

The plantar fascia is the tough elastic band that runs along the bottom of your foot, from the heel down to the toes. It is designed to support the arch, and excessive stretching during pregnancy can cause painful inflammation, a condition known as plantar fasciitis.

Relaxin, what is it?

Pregnancy can cause heel pain, flat feet, and swollen feet. Also known as "pregnancy feet."

In the latter stages of pregnancy, a woman’s body releases a hormone appropriately called relaxin. Relaxin facilitates labor by causing the ligaments surrounding the pelvis to relax and soften.

Unfortunately, relaxin doesn’t confine its effects to just the ligaments around the pelvis. It affects ligaments throughout the body, including the ligaments that bind together the long bones in your feet (called metatarsals).

Those newly lax ligaments between the metatarsals contribute to flattened arches and impaired balance.

Loosened ligaments also allow the joint between the first metatarsal and the big toe to drift outward into a V shape. This deformation is called a bunion, and it can be another painful symptom of pregnancy.

Thankfully, foot conditions due to pregnancy are usually temporary

Take heart! There’s a light at the end of the birth canal. The foot conditions we’re discussing here are a normal part of pregnancy, and almost all of them will disappear after the baby is delivered. Some will vanish quickly, some will disappear gradually, some might persist. For example, you may wear a larger shoe size for the rest of your life.

What to do for swollen feet, until the miracle of birth is complete?

There’s a lot you can do between now and your due date. Your feet will continuously change throughout the pregnancy, so when buying shoes, check your shoe size frequently.

How to prevent edema in the lower extremities during pregnancy with home remedies?

  • Reduce your salt intake, and make sure that you have adequate potassium in your diet. This will act as a diuretic and help your kidneys release excess fluid.
  • Exercise. Mild exertion in a swimming pool or on a stationary bicycle will help your blood circulate properly. Walking or low-impact aerobic classes are also great options.
  • Elevate your feet at every reasonable opportunity. Standing for long periods of time exacerbates swollen feet. The longer you can keep your feet higher than your heart, the better the blood flow to your feet. This position helps reduce fluid retention in your feet, ankles, and calves. And it gives you a well-earned chance to relax.
  • Drink several glasses of water each day. Yeah, we know adding water to your body sounds counterintuitive, but when there’s plenty of water in your system, your kidneys are more willing to relinquish extra fluid.
  • Wearing compression socks can alleviate puffiness and slow down sudden swelling of the feet. For severe cases, your podiatrist can provide prescription-strength compression stockings.
  • Frequently apply an ice bag to your feet, ankles, and calves, especially at the end of the day.

What to do for flattened arches during pregnancy?

  • Wear shoes and slippers that provide good arch support.
  • See your podiatrist about orthotics (custom-made shoe inserts). They can evenly distribute the new weight, and help your feet and ankles adapt to your new posture and gait.
  • Avoid walking barefoot.

Medical advice regarding preeclampsia

High blood pressure in pregnant women can be a serious condition. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you have swollen feet and are experiencing any chest pain or difficulty breathing. Know that these can be a sign of preeclampsia.

Here’s an important foot swelling tip!

Make sure your significant other understands that their continued significance depends entirely on the quality and frequency of the foot massages that you receive.

Why choose University Foot and Ankle Institute for “pregnant feet” care?

If you’re pregnant and experiencing foot problems, we’re here to help. Our nationally recognized foot and ankle doctors offer the most advanced foot care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are leaders in the research and treatment of all foot and ankle conditions.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment now.

At UFAI, we take our patients’ safety seriously. Our clinics’ and surgery centers’ Covid-19 patient safety procedures exceed all CDC recommendations. Masks are required in our institutes at all times.

We are conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area as our foot doctors are available at locations in or near: Santa Monica (on Wilshire Blvd.), Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Northridge, Downtown Los Angeles, Westlake Village, Granada Hills, and Valencia, California.

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