Does being pregnant take away the swing in your step and replace it with leg cramps? Here’s what you need to know about foot pain during pregnancy.
What can you read in this article?
- Foot cramps in pregnancy – a semester-by-semester guide
- How to manage foot pain in pregnancy
- Leg cramps during pregnancy while sleeping
When you are pregnant, some of the advice that most people will tell you is to “Slow down,” “Take it easy,” or “Don’t spend too much time on your feet.” Do you wonder if it ever has something to do with the foot pain we experience during pregnancy?
Pregnancy has been known to bring about many changes in a woman’s body. Unfortunately, some of these changes cause pain and discomfort with the most changes affecting your feet. Plantar Fasciitis, for instance, is one of such common effects.
When the plantar fascia, the chunky loop of connective tissue that extends from your heel to your toes beneath your foot swells or gets irritated, it brings on Plantar Fasciitis. Do you feel increasing pain when climbing the stairs? Or when you stand for extended periods or on your toes?
Chances are you have developed plantar fasciitis, which is somehow responsible for foot pain during pregnancy. To a certain extent, Plantar Fasciitis is more frequent in women as compared to men and more so in pregnant women.
1. Foot pain during pregnancy: causes of Plantar Fasciitis in pregnant moms
There are many factors that could cause changes in an expectant mom’s body, but what could be the culprit of foot cramps and pain in pregnancy? The main causes of Plantar Fasciitis in pregnant women are:
Loosening and softening of ligaments caused by relaxin
When you get pregnant, there is a hormone known as relaxin that is released from your placenta, your uterus lining, and the membranes surrounding the fetus.
Its levels are usually at their highest during the first three months. In order to help implant the developing fetus into your uterus’s wall and increase placenta growth.
Throughout your pregnancy, relaxin takes care of you as well through controlling the changes in cardiovascular output, renal system, and arterial functioning in your body.
It is, however, relaxin that softens and relaxes the ligaments on all sides of your hips and pelvis to enhance flexibility during the third trimester.
Much as this will ease labor when the time comes, it gets a bit tricky because it softens your other body ligaments. Like those of the knees and feet hence reducing your stability, meaning chances of falls and slips increase; and also weakens your foot arch muscles, making the Plantar Fascia more susceptible to injury.
So you have added a few pounds and probably feel alien to your own body. The increase in weight is necessary for you and your baby’s health. However, it is also another major cause of Plantar Fasciitis in pregnant women.
A previous study found that pregnant women in their last two trimesters had higher forefront pressure while standing and walking than overweight women. This increased pressure coupled with loose ligaments strains the Plantar Fascia. Causing it to swell and tear which is what podiatrists refer to as Plantar Fasciitis.
Commonly referred to as flat feet, overpronation is when the arches of your feet flatten significantly due to the increased weight.
It also changes your gait as your feet roll inwards while you walk.
Podiatrists confirm overpronation as very common in pregnant women and assess that it causes Plantar Fasciitis by extremely stressing and inflaming the Plantar Fascia making it difficult and painful to walk.
2 Leg cramps during pregnancy – how you’ll feel
Image from iStock
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
Most reported symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis include:
- Stabbing pain and stiffness beneath your heel. Which sometimes occurs in your mid-foot area.
- Leg cramps or pain when taking your first steps after a period of inactivity. Like sleeping, sitting, or driving for long hours. These pains normally ease after walking for a few minutes.
- Pain from applying pressure on certain parts of your foot and zero pain on applying equal pressure on other parts.
- Crippling or great pain after prolonged exercising, standing, walking, or other activity.
As some common pregnancy side effects such as nausea and morning sickness tend to subside or lessen as the weeks go by. Plantar fasciitis or leg cramps tend to get worse as the woman’s pregnancy progresses.
Leg pain during pregnancy – how it changes
For instance, leg cramps during the first trimester are very minimal. Just a bit of ache and pains that may be brought about by the change in hormone levels and the sluggish feeling brought about by fatigue.
If you’re used to being always “on your toes” then suddenly you have to stop. The lack of exercise could also contribute to leg cramps.
If you were spared from leg pain during the first trimester. Then it would most likely develop during the second trimester. When your blood circulation slows down and there’s an increase in blood volume.
Finally, you’ll find that leg cramps during pregnancy in the third trimester is the absolute worst. Because that’s the time that you’ve gained a lot of weight and your muscles get fatigued from the added pressure of carrying your baby in your womb.
You can even experience leg cramps during pregnancy while sleeping if you sleep with your bedding tucked in with your toes pointing downward.
However, don’t worry as it will definitely get better once you have given birth and the weight will be lifted off your belly.
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3. Swollen feet and ankles during pregnancy
Aside from leg cramps, your foot pain may even be accompanied by swollen feet or ankles.
Elevated hormone levels cause pregnant women to retain a lot of water, which can lead to bloating and swelling, also known as edema. While your body needs this extra fluid to carry nutrients and oxygen to your baby, it can cause worry and discomfort in pregnant women.
Because your growing uterus puts too much pressure on the veins that carry blood in your lower body, fluid retention is more noticeable in your feet, ankles, and calves.
Some of the triggers for edema in pregnancy include fatigue, exercising, eating salty foods, excessive intake of caffeine, and being on your feet for a long time.
When is it not normal?
While swelling in pregnancy isn’t usually a cause for concern, consult your OB-gynecologist right away if you notice swelling of your hands and face accompanied by blurred vision, severe or constant headaches, and excessive weight gain (more than 1 pound a day) as this can be a warning sign of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure in pregnancy.
Moreover, you should also inform your doctor if you experience severe leg cramps or a lot of pain in your legs when you’re standing or moving around, severe swelling, and the skin in the affected area is warm to the touch, as it may also be a symptom of a blood clot caused by deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can cause complications to your pregnancy.
4. How to treat foot pain in pregnancy
Leg cramps and swollen ankles can cause a lot of discomfort in pregnant women. It can affect your disposition as well as your routine and your sleep. But not to worry, moms, because there are a ton of treatment methods that you can try to ease foot pain in pregnancy.
We divided treatment methods into two sections:
Home treatment/DIY remedies
Among the basic do-it-yourself treatments you should try are:
- Take plenty of rest by avoiding any activities that worsen the pain or cause a great impact on your feet like running. As you lie down, podiatrists suggest you raise your legs at least 6 inches above your heart for 15 minutes in order to improve blood flow.
- You could also ice your feet daily for about 20 minutes 3 to 4 times either by using an ice pack, ice block, or rolling your feet over a cold water bottle. Ensure to consult your obstetrician before using ice on your edema.
- Some simple calf and Plantar Fascia stretch 3 to 5 times daily will elongate your heel cord since Plantar Fasciitis is heightened by tight muscles in your feet.
- Focus on buying shoes and slippers that offer arch support and efficient cushioning. This will prevent tiny tears in tissue cells caused by the pressure felt on your heels as you move. Heel pads also provide cushioning.
- Use a night splint to hinder the Plantar Fascia from shortening while you sleep and effectively stop the pain.
- Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen, paracetamol will relieve pain and reduce swelling. If you experience stomach pains see your doctor for an alternative prescription.
- A steroid injection notably cortisone which is an anti-inflammatory medication will ease your pain by reducing the swelling. Multiple uses could, however, rupture the plantar fascia or shrink your heel’s fat pad elevating your pain.
- Extracorporeal shock wave treatment to try and stimulate the healing process of the damaged tissues. ECWT does not involve a surgical incision and is often tried before considering surgery.
Again, before trying any home remedies or non-surgical treatments to alleviate leg pain in pregnancy, make it a point to consult your OB-gynecologist first.
If you think you are suffering from Plantar Fasciitis, ask her to refer you to an orthopedic doctor to have your feet checked and get the necessary treatment.
Republished with permission from theAsianParent Singapore
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