While pregnant you may have noticed that your feet are bearing the brunt of natural weight gain and hormonal changes and as you rely on your feet for a lot, it’s important to give them the care they deserve. Here's how to care for your feet during pregnancy
Why is foot care in pregnancy so important?
It's important to look after your whole body, whether you're pregnant or not, but foot care is especially key to keep an eye on during pregnancy. "From what we have seen, your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, which can have knock on effects to other parts of your body," explains midwife and founder of Natural Birthday Company Jane Mason. "All of that extra weight is being carried by your feet, that also have to adapt to a change in your centre point of gravity, creating that well-known pregnancy "waddle". It is therefore essential for you to learn about foot care so your nine months as a Mama-to-be is made as comfortable as possible for you."
What sort of foot issues might I experience while pregnant?
You’re probably already well aware that many women suffer from oedema while pregnant “The swelling is due to the increasing volume of blood and fluids in your body on top of a lot of hormonal fluid retention thrown in for good measure,” explains Jane. “The extra fluid is to help soften your body in readiness for giving birth but it does have a knock on effect with gravity of causing swelling in your feet, especially if you have been on them all day.”
A lot of mums-to-be don’t realise, but your feet can actually be affected by the increase in hormones such as relaxing that helps your ligaments to relax in readiness for giving birth. “However, it will also work on the ligaments in your feet which can cause flat feet (fallen arches), this is turn can lead to an increase in your shoe size by half or a whole size larger which doesn’t reverse itself after birth,” says Jane. “The extra weight that you gain from your growing baby, breasts and increased fluid and blood supply puts extra strain on your already compromised feet which can heel pain (plantar fasciitis) or just general aching sore feet.”
And that’s not all! Did you know even your toenails are affected by pregnancy? “They tend to grow faster due to the increased circulation and prenatal vitamins, however as your baby takes priority for the nutrients in your body you can develop nail changes such as brittleness, ridges/grooves or dark, discoloured lines in the nail bed – a nail can even fall off – but don’t worry these change will usually go away after your pregnancy,” reassures Jane.
When should I expect swollen feet in the pregnancy?
The third trimester is the most common time to be greeted by feet swelling in pregnancy. “Your body continues to build its supply of blood and fluid and the weight of your growing uterus can affect your circulation from your legs back up into your body,” says Jane.
What can I do to help swollen feet?
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water
Reduce your caffeine intake
Try to rest with your feet up when you can – being on your feet all day will not help
Do not cross your legs or even ankles when sitting & do not sit with your legs curled underneath you – all of these positions can restrict circulation
Keep yourself cool – use the Natural Birthday Company Cool It Mama cooling body spray – spray directly over your swollen feet, ankles or anywhere else that needs cooling. Containing menthol to give you an instant cool refreshing sensation and grapefruit that has diuretic properties making it the perfect companion to water retention. The spa like aroma comes from Neroli, Ylang Ylang and Bergamot which relax, calm and uplift those tired spirits.
How to prevent, treat and deal with swelling during pregnancy
As swelling often occurs in the lower half of your body it is important you wear sensible and comfortable shoes. This will hopefully minimise the chances of swelling and prevent any unecessary aches and pains.
Wearing loose fitting clothing will mean your circulation isn't restricted and you are just generally more comfortable. Tight jeans or non-maternity fitting items could make swelling in the legs worse. Tight clothes can also cause bloating which is another common and unpleasant pregnancy side effect so floaty dresses it is!
Who needs an excuse to put their feet up?! Resting and putting your feet up regularly will help prevent swelling. Ideally put them above your hips - you can lie on the floor and put the on the sofa if needs be. It is a good idea to have a footstool if you sit at a desk for work to keep your feet elevated.
Doing simple exercises with your feet improves blood flow. Try pointing your toes and relaxing them, stretching your foot up and down, circling your feet one way and then the other or even doing the alphabet with your feet!
If you work on your feet it is hard to avoid this one. Ideally, you need to rest and put your feet up at regular intervals as standing increases swelling in the lower half of your body. Sit down where possible or on your break at work.
If you can't sit down then try shifting your weight from one side to the other. Just keeping yourself moving and not putting all your weight down into the same pressure points should help improve blood flow.
Walking is a great exercise for pregnant woman as it shouldn't put the body under too much stress. It helps to increase blood circulation which will help with your swelling. Getting outside for a quick walk, especially in the morning, has great mental health benefits too and exercise of course helps you regulate your weight better during pregnancy.
Swimming is another great gentle exercise during pregnancy. If you suffer with oedema, simply standing in a pool and immersing yourself in the water for a short period of time can help ease the pressure and reduce swelling. Baby Med explains that 'Water immersion works to reduce swelling by allowing the body to shed excess water that collects under the skin through the kidneys'.
With all that excess water floating about you might be tempted to skip a few glasses of water to prevent any more build up. However, this can be a big mistake. Drinking water keeps you hydrated and actually helps your body to better regulate the hoards of water.
A healthy diet works wonders for you during pregnancy for a number of reasons. Your body needs all sorts of vitamins and nutrients during pregnancy to help keep your body ticking along nicely. Eating a healthy diet also means you will put on weight at the correct rate. If you gain weight too quickly this will increase the pressure on your body and limbs which will make swelling worse. Eat lots of different coloured veg and a mix of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
This one is a bit weird! You might have heard of cabbage leaves healhing powers during breastfeeding but they can also work for swelling. Placing raw cabbage leaves on the swollen area can draw out fluid to relieve the swelling or discomfort. Cool them first in the fridge and wrapped the chilled leaves round to make a compress. Once they are wet, replace them with fresh leaves.
Too much salt is never a good idea. Salt can make you dehydrated and it can also make the body hold onto more fluid. Cutitng out processed food is an easy way to avoid hidden salt!
The benefits of Epsom salts for swelling have not yet been fully proven but a warm bath is a relaxing way to put your feet up during pregnancy. Epsom salt is a crystalized form of magnesium and sulfate. 'Mix about 2 cups of Epsom salt into a warm bath and soak for about 12 to 15 minutes. Be sure to keep the water temperature comfortable and not scalding. Raising your body temperature too high by soaking in a hot tub is dangerous for your baby-to-be' says Healthline.
Epsom salts help soothe aching muscles which you often have during pregnancy but it might also help with swelling. LiveStrong explain that 'The magnesium content of Epsom salt is believed to be the source of its claimed benefits. This mineral plays an important role in muscle and nerve function, and is known to decrease inflammation which is associated with tissue swelling.'
How can I take care of my feet?
Jane suggests the following:
•Give your feet time and attention, they are under a lot of stress and strain from your changing body and increased weight from your pregnancy.
•Keep your nails trimmed short (but not too short otherwise you are at risk of in-growing toe nails).
•When resting sit with your feet higher than your hips where possible to help with circulation.
•If you can no longer reach your feet comfortably ask your partner or a friend to help you care for them or treat yourself to a pedicure.
Tempt your partner or friend into giving you a foot massage with the Natural Birthing Company Relax and Breathe massage oil – containing Arnica to help soothe tired aching muscles and Chamomile and Frankincense to calm the mind.
More foot care ideas to try
Your cheeky monkey loves a mashed banana, and your feet will too! The high vitamin A helps restore moisture to dry cracked skin – making it a wonder treatment for hard heels. Peel and mash two bananas until smooth, slather on your feet. Leave for 10 minutes before rinsing.
Add a cup of peppermint tea to your foot-soak water and boost this easy feel-good treat to a near-spa experience. Brew the tea stronger than you’d drink it and add the minty water to your foot bath. With its natural cooling, anti-inflammatory properties, mint helps reduce swelling, while its anti-microbial properties keep bacteria at bay to keep your feet smelling fresh.
Ease with ice
Aching arches from being on your feet all day? Banishing your boots and reaching for those gladiators at the first sign of sun feels great, but unsupportive flats can cause inflammation of the plantar fascia, the band of tissue that supports your arch. For cooling relief, fill a plastic water bottle three-quarters full and freeze upright without the cap on. Once solid, replace the cap, sit on a chair and roll one foot at a time over the bottle.
When you’re ready to switch that burgundy polish for spring-inspired pastels, you may find your nails have a yellow tinge from a winter of dark laquer. To whiten, use a new toothbrush to apply some toothpaste to your nails. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then gently scrub off under warm running water.
Feet swelling now you’re pregnant, and your fave shoes starting to rub by the end of the day? Take a deodorant stick and apply to the soles and side of your feet – wherever the lining of the shoe will be. This will help keep your feet dry and reduce friction where the fabric rubs against your skin.
Foot care products
The T for Toes Foot Powderis packed with absorbent kaolin to keep your feet dry, and tea tree, lime and powdered walnut to keep them fresh and sweet. Sprinkle onto freshly-washed feet.
Raggedy cuticles ruin the best of pedicures. Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream is packed with natural moisturising ingredients to help keep them soft and neat.
Scholl boasts an impressive range of foot care products for all manner of problems as well as just general foot care. We especially love their Velvet Smooth Ped Foot File which you can most definitely get your partner to assist with...
Effective for those of us with dry skin and cracked heels, CCS Foot Care Cream is is lanolin free and hypo-allergenic. Apply twice daily and then massage in as required.
Stephanie Anthony is the Deputy Digital Editor at Mother&Baby and auntie to four aged 7 to 2 months old. With a particular interest in health, she loves discovering products that make parent’s lives easier.