How Will My Feet Change During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is often accompanied by changes in the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine and lower extremities. These changes may be due to multiple factors including weight gain and hormonal changes. During and after pregnancy, you may experience the following changes in your feet:
Changes in foot length, width, and arch height
During pregnancy, you may note that the size of your feet increases. This is due to fluid and tissue accumulating in the lower extremities. Hormonal changes also occur that lead to laxity or looseness of the ligaments in your feet. This loosening results in an increase in foot length and width with a decrease in arch height, meaning the arch becomes flatter. You may notice your shoes feel tighter or that your feet can no longer fit into certain shoes.
Many women feel these changes are most pronounced with their first pregnancy and less evident with subsequent pregnancies. While these changes tend to reverse themselves in the postpartum period, some women may notice permanent changes in the shape of their feet or limitations in the shoes they can wear.
Changes in joint mobility
You can expect laxity/looseness of your foot and ankle joints of the foot and ankle, which can cause instability. Weight gain can worsen the instability. These changes, along with changes to the curvature of the back, can also lead to alterations in gait (the way you walk) as you progress through pregnancy. You may walk with your legs further apart to maintain balance. Some foot conditions that may result from joint laxity, including bunions and flat feet, may get worse during pregnancy. Talk to a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon if you have concerns.
Calf swelling, cramping, and pain
Calf swelling and cramping are frequent during pregnancy. Blood flow returning from your legs back to your heart is slowed due to the increased size of the uterus and fetus. This leads to a buildup of fluid within the legs. The following activities may help reduce swelling and discomfort:
- Wearing compression stockings
- Regular walking and low-impact aerobic exercise
- Staying properly hydrated
- Frequent stretching of the calves
- Massaging the swollen area
Rarely, blood clots can occur in the legs during pregnancy. Symptoms of blood clots include persistent calf pain, swelling, possible redness, warmth, and tenderness. If you notice any of these symptoms or suspect you may have a blood clot, you should contact your physician.
Contributors/Reviewers: Sudheer Reddy, MD; Robert Leland, MD; Elizabeth Cody, MD