Leg and Foot Problems During Pregnancy

Why are leg and foot problems common during pregnancy?

Included among  the common complaints of pregnancy, such as morning sickness, back pain, and fatigue, are foot and leg pain. While in most cases, symptoms will abate once you give birth, they can make life difficult during gestation. This is especially true these days when most women are busy in the workplace until close to their due dates. This is why it’s a good idea to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable podiatrist at the beginning of your pregnancy who can follow you through the months when your body is undergoing major changes.

Reasons for Leg and Foot Problems during Pregnancy

There are several reasons that leg and foot problems occur more during pregnancy. One is the rapid weight gain; another is the elevated hormone levels that cause pregnant women to retain fluid. Being on your feet during your work day or while taking care of young children at home can exacerbate the problem.

What foot and leg problems are likely to occur?

Various problems can occur during pregnancy, including:

  • Swelling and edema of the feet and/or ankles
  • Leg cramps
  • Varicose veins

Although all three are common pregnancy-related difficulties, it is important to evaluate swelling if it also occurs on your face or hands or if it is associated with blurred vision, severe headaches or more than expected weight gain (more than one pound per day). These symptoms are associated with preeclampsia, a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Ways to Relieve Normal Foot and Ankle Pain during Pregnancy

Compassionate podiatrists, whether male or female, are familiar with the foot and ankle problems  frequently associated with pregnancy. They recommend the following methods of preventing and minimizing the problems mentioned.

To Avoid Swelling:

  • Exercise your feet regularly to increase circulation beginning early in your pregnancy
  • Rest periodically with your feet elevated
  • Sleep on your side, rather than your back, to relieve pressure on the vena cava
  • Drink plenty of fluids ( it may seem counterintuitive, but dehydration makes swelling worse)
  • Limit your weight gain to 25 to 35 pounds
  • Ice the inside of your ankles for 15 to 20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling
  • Get fitted with comfortable, supportive shoes and boots with wide calves and zippers

To Avoid Painful Leg Cramps:

  • Regulate your diet to include more dairy or calcium supplements and foods rich in potassium, (like bananas); avoid diet sodas and processed meats that are high in phosphorous
  • Take a 15 to 20 minute walk daily
  • Avoid sitting or standing in one position for long periods

To Diminish Your Chances of Developing Varicose Veins

As with many medical problems, heredity may make you more prone to varicose veins. Nonetheless, you may prevent or diminish unsightly, uncomfortable bulging blood vessels by:

  • Avoiding excessive weight gain
  • Engaging in mild exercise of the legs (e.g. walking, swimming, bicycling)
  • Wearing support hose

To Avoid Foot Fatigue and Aches

During pregnancy women develop develop ligament laxity, meaning their ligaments stretch beyond normal limits. This occurs because progesterone levels are extraordinarily high during gestation, resulting in a loosening of ligaments and joints throughout the body. Since the overstretched ligaments offer less support and affect posture adversely , it is recommended that women wear custom-made orthotics during pregnancy to maintain healthy foot joints and decrease discomfort.

By following the above suggestions, you are likely to get through your pregnancy with little or no foot pain which will make life easier both during gestation and in the challenging, though wonderful, months that follow childbirth.

Posted in: Foot Pain