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During Pregnancy, The Foot Has Unique Issues

Brandt R Gibson, DPM
Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute
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As I walk around American Fork or visit stores in Lehi, I regularly see woman who are at varying stages of pregnancy.  Pregnancy is a common occurance in Utah and also a common reason I see patients in our office.  As I watch these woman walk around in various styles of shoes, from high heels to flip flops, I am reminded of the 11 pregnancies I have watched first hand with my wife.  Pregnancy is a unique experience on the human body, and can often lead to problems, pain or other issues with the feet.  Although any problems can present during pregnancy, some foot related issues are directly related to pregnancy and the changes the body is undergoing.  I will list the most common problems related to pregnancy here so you can know if pregnancy is the cause:

  • Swelling (Edema) - Due to increased pressure to the abdominal area, and pregnancy related water retension can be problematic for shoes, socks and even get worse after periods of standing.  This swelling can be assisted with compression type stockings or elevating the feet more throughout the day.
  • Varicose Veins - Spider veins or varicose veins are very common in pregnancy.  These veins often develop as the woman progresses through pregancy (again due to increased abdominal pressure on the main veins coming from the legs).  These develop as the backflow pressure increases and valves in the veins fail.  The body is then forced to create new routes back to the heart around failing veins (the varicose veins). This can also be treated with compression stockings.
  • Heel Pain - Although this is typically the same as usual Plantar Fasciitis, it occurs in pregnancy because of poor shoes or increased weight.  Treatment options are very similar for this as any other presentation of plantar fasciitis.
  • Sprains & Strains - Injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments are quite common because of hormone induced relaxation of ligaments and tendons.  This is an physiologic process that is normal to allow delivery of a baby at 9 months, but can be problematic in the feet and ankles.  Protective shoegear is the best treatment for this.  We recommend not utilizing flip flops or barefoot, but using Crocs or walking type shoes.  Runninig shoes may also work.
  • Shoe Size Changes - Also due to the relaxation of the ligaments, the foot can increase in size during pregnancy.  Don't be surprised if you need to get different shoes after childbirth (or even during pregnancy).

Although these issues are often problematic, a new baby is definitely a blessing and through careful self treatment, you can avoid longterm problems here.

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