Are you experiencing leg and foot pain during pregnancy? Do your legs feel tired and ache easily which “force” you to become sedentary by lying or sitting down the whole day? Are your feet or ankles swollen to the extent that you are basically squeezing your way through just to wear that lovely heels or boots of yours? In fact, you are not alone.
Foot pain and aching legs is one of the common complaints from pregnant woman (even for experienced mothers!) other than morning sickness, backache, nausea and vomiting or stretch marks. However, this problem is often not given much thought as most expected mothers believed that it is the “standard norm” throughout the pregnancy period. As such, they choose to suffer the pain in silence, keeping their fingers crossed hoping that the 9 months will pass faster.
If this is your first pregnancy and is experiencing the above problems, this article provide insight on the common causes of leg and foot pain during pregnancy with helpful pain relief tips.
4 Main Causes Of Leg And Foot Pain During Pregnancy
Also known as over-pronation or fallen arches refers to flattening of the arch of the foot. This is caused by the increase hormones of estrogen and relaxin during pregnancy that causes ligament laxity between the heel and foot bones. As such, you may experience pain and soreness particular at the arches and heels. In addition, it increases your foot size which explains why your previous heels or shoes do not fit in to your feet when you are pregnant.
On the other hand, weight gain during pregnancy occurs due to the growing uterus (womb), developing fetus (baby), additional water retention and increased breast size. This increase in body weight puts additional pressure on your knees, ankles and feet that adds on to the pain which you are experiencing. Besides, it also causes your feet to roll inwards abnormally and you can feel the strain when you walk.
Prevention Tips For Flat Feet
- Look for “ready-made foot orthotics” that comes with good arch support to provide balancing and comfort. Make sure that the size is best-fitted and follows the contours of your feet. Avoid wearing high heels.
- Avoid standing for long hours or walking for long distances.
- Avoid bare-footed at home as it can aggravates your pain and discomfort. A pair of soft slippers will serve as a cushion between your feet and the ground.
- Elevate your legs by resting your feet on a stool while you are sitting down. This helps to relax your feet and improves blood circulation.
- If there is pain in the arch, you can try rolling a frozen water bottle under the arch two times a day. This should helps to relieve foot pain.
Over-pronation is especially prominent in women who have “flexible flat feet” or overweight. These factors may lead to intense heel pain (plantar fasciitis), arch pain in the ball of the foot and chronic arch fatigue. The development of flat fleet and natural weight gain shifted your body’s center of gravity and affects how you stand or walk. At times, you may even lose your balance if you are not careful enough.
Edema or swollen feet is a common foot problem during pregnancy whereby there is painful swelling in the feet or ankles which is caused by accumulation of excess fluids and blood in your tissues. It is usually seen during the third trimester when pregnancy hormones results to an increase (up to 50%) in blood volume and fluids that supply the essential nutrients to the baby. And the reason why it affects only the feet and ankles is due to the “law of gravity” that ‘encourages’ the extra fluids to go all the way down to the bottom.
Another reason is because of the growing womb that exerts pressure on the smaller blood vessels which are in the pelvis and down to the legs. Therefore, the normal blood circulation is being disrupted and blocked easily which leads to the retaining of fluids in the foot area.
Generally, the swollen feet becomes purple in color and will probably increase in size several times due to the release of the relaxin hormone. This causes the ligaments of the feet to become more flexible which results in longer and wider foot. Thus, it is common for pregnant woman to see their foot increasing up to half or even full size in footwear.
Prevention Tips For Edema
- Drink lots of water. Though it appears illogical but it actually helps to flush out the excess sodium or fluids in your body, thereby reducing swelling.
- Try to rest your feet more often and keep them elevated. And do not cross your legs as by doing that, you are “lending a helping hand” to block the blood circulation further.
- Avoid standing, sitting or walking for long periods of time as it can aggravates foot pain on top of swelling. If you are sitting, get up for 5 minutes after every hour. Walking is a good form of exercise for pregnancy, but tried to keep within 20 to 30 minutes.
- Limit the amount of salt intake in your daily diet.
- Stay indoors or in cool environments during hot weather especially summer months. Warm humidity can cause more swelling to the feet and ankles.
- Avoid wearing tight stockings, socks, pants or shorts to help your blood and fluid flow more freely. Forget about those sexy clothing of yours for the time being and opt for loose-fitting maternity clothing.
- Opt for high-waist maternity or compression stocking that helps to improve blood flow in your legs. For best results, wear it first thing in the morning when you wake up.
- Get the correct sizes of shoes preferably those shoes which will stretch as your feet swell.
- Have a good eating diet that consists of fruits and vegetables. Potassium-rich foods help to relieve the symptoms of edema.
- Use cold compresses on swollen feet or ankles.
- Go for 2 to 3 regular swims every week. You may be surprised that it helps to minimize the effect of swelling.
- Consider having a session of reflexology. Not only it helps reduce swelling but promotes general well-being of the body.
One thing to take note is if there is swelling in your face and hands with frequent headaches or blurred vision, this could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Therefore, you should consult a doctor immediately. Though edema is usually harmless and the swelling will disappear after delivery, it can be uncomfortable and painful, affecting your mobility during pregnancy.
Leg cramps or charley horses is the one of the most common causes of leg and foot pain during pregnancy. Almost half of all pregnant mothers may suffer muscles contractions in the calf muscles during their 2nd and 3rd trimester. Cramping usually occurs at night and is particularly related to tiring legs and feet. They are often being described as sudden and sharp pain associated with sensation of ‘pulling’ in the legs.
Prevention Tips For Leg Cramps
- Avoid cramping of the muscles from dehydration by drinking lots of water throughout the day.
- Regular exercise in the form of daily walk helps in blood circulation, thereby reducing the chance of getting leg cramps. Make sure you stretch your calves before exercising.
- Prevent muscle tightness by taking a warm bath or applying a heat pad. This helps to relax your calves and leg muscles.
- If you feel tiredness in your legs or feet, gently massage helps to relieve the feeling of soreness and avoid cramps.
- If your doctor allow, consuming calcium, potassium or magnesium supplements helps to replenish those nutrients deficiency in your body.
- If you are experiencing an intense cramp in the foot, straighten your leg and flex your foot gently with the toes pointing upwards. Alternatively, try grasping your foot with both hands and gently massage into the arch with your thumbs.
- To avoid your legs from cramping in the middle of the night, elevate your feet and rotate your ankles or flexing your foot 10 times before going to bed.
There are various factors that cause leg cramps during pregnancy. One reason is the constantly changing calcium levels in the body in which the fetus is using for bone-building. Otherwise, strain on the lower back because of the extra weight and the pelvis being pushed forward may also contribute to leg spasms. Besides, leg cramps can also occurs when the extra pressure of the growing baby acts on the nerves and blood vessels.
Varicose veins refer to those ugly, dark blue or purple swollen veins which stick out above the skin surface during pregnancy. They are often found on the backs of the calves, thighs, around the buttocks or vagina area. They are caused by damaged or weak valves that failed to stop the blood from flowing into the veins. This is due to the increased blood volume that forces through and stretches the veins to the extent that the valves are not able to function properly.
Prevention Tips For Varicose Veins
- Avoid standing or sitting for too long. If standing is required due to job commitment, try to shift and alternate your weight between your legs every 8 – 10 minutes. For those who are desk-bound, stand up and walk for five minutes every 30 minutes.
- Avoid cross-legging when sitting down as it places stress on the blood vessels, veins and nerves.
- Focus on low-impact leg exercises such as walking, cycling or simple leg flexes or stretches to encourage better blood circulation.
- Eat foods that are high in fiber but low in salt content.
- Whenever you are resting, your legs should be elevated on a small stool.
Varicose veins are common in pregnant women who have major weight gain or those who are working in jobs that required long standing hours. Other possible reasons include hereditary factors or hormonal changes. Usually, common complaints of varicose veins include aching leg pain after long periods of sitting or standing as well as cramping and swelling. Others may experience feeling of heaviness or fatigue in their legs.
Pregnancy and mother-to-be is an unforgettable and precious life experience. By understanding the causes of leg and foot pain during pregnancy as well as adopting the prevention tips, it helps you to go through these memorable 9 months comfortably and confidently.
The above information is meant for your general reference only and is not intended to replace any professional medical advice from your doctor or midwife. Therefore, if you are experiencing foot pain that have persists for the past few days or weeks, you should get professional help for appropriate pain relief treatments.