The Importance of Foot Care during pregnancy

When people say to you during pregnancy to “put your feet up” what may seem like a passing comment may actually hold the key to helping with another common pregnancy complaint that I want to talk a little about, swollen and painful feet and ankles.

Whilst this is something we know is common in pregnancy (as if you haven’t got enough going on!) there is actually a lot of practical steps you can take to ease your symptoms!

Why are my feet swelling up? Should I worry?

The NHS advises that:

“It’s normal to get some swelling in pregnancy, particularly in your legs, ankles, feet and fingers. It’s often worse at the end of the day and further into your pregnancy. Swelling that comes on gradually isn’t usually harmful to you or your baby, but it can be uncomfortable”. (1)

Please note here, ladies that the swelling we are discussing is a gradual process and any worries about this can usually be discussed with and reassured by your midwife or GP.

As with a lot of pregnancy complaints, however, there is always a risk that there could be more complications or more serious underlying conditions so with any changes to your body or rapidly increased swelling in your feet, hands or ankles you really do need to seek prompt support from your health professionals.

When it comes to swelling, this is usually “caused by your body holding more water than usual when you’re pregnant. Throughout the day the extra water tends to gather in the lowest parts of the body, especially if the weather is hot or you have been standing a lot. The pressure of your growing womb can also affect the blood flow in your legs. This can cause fluid to build up in your legs, ankles and feet” (1)

We also know that in pregnancy there will be expected Weight gain and hormonal changes and your feet do tend to take a large part of the impact of these changes. If you think about it, in addition to potential discomfort,  Many women find they are also unable to reach their feet in the later stages of pregnancy and can experience cramps, and varicose veins on their lower limbs.

So now we know why my feet are swollen, what can I do?!

There are actually a few simple steps (forgive the pun!) that you can take to help relieve the regular swelling and discomfort in your lower limbs in pregnancy once you have sought medical advice to rule out anything underlying.

Tip 1) Elevate your feet and legs up whenever you can.

So that’s right ladies, do what it says on the tin, take some time out and get those footsies literally up!

Tip 2) Stretches!

Keeping in mind the effect of relaxin in the body and working within a comfortable range of movement, try and incorporate a daily leg and calf stretch into your routine.

NHS Choices gives a good video demo through the following link:

www.nhs.uk/Video/Pages/strength-and-flex-calf-stretch.aspx

Tip 3) Wear comfortable and supportive footwear.

According to The College of Podiatry “Choose a heel height of 3cm as this shifts your weight a little further forward on your feet which can help alleviate discomfort…but  avoid wearing high heels as this can place unnecessary pressure on your joints at a time when they are already under strain” (2)

Tip 4) Exercise and keep active!

Ok, so we can’t have our feet up all the time I guess! Again the College of Podiatry advises to “keep the lower limbs moving even when resting. Prevent cramps from occurring by boosting circulation – try rotating your ankles ten times to the left and ten times to the right, and repeating”  or “bend and stretch your foot up and down 30 times” (2)

Try and keep more active in your activities of daily living, for example using the stairs instead of the lift or consider a pregnancy suitable programme of exercise with a qualified pregnancy and postnatal personal trainer – however, always remember before you start an exercise programme to check with your midwife or GP.

Tip 5) Drink more water and stay hydrated!

“This helps your body get rid of excess water” (2) plus if you re exercising, maintaining your fluid intake will take away the risks of and symptoms of dehydration.

Tip 6) Get further professional advice.

If you experience pain in your feet, speak to your GP about a referral to a podiatrist who will be able to assess and provide further ways to ease the pain as well as provide pregnancy specific advice on all aspects of foot care.

Resources

(1) www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/swollen-ankles-feet-pregnant/

(2)  The college of podiatry

https://cop.org.uk/foot-health/keep-on-walking/foot-health-in-pregnancy/

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