The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Pregnancy Edema & Other Pregnancy Foot Problems

Posted by on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

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By 27 weeks, approximately three-quarters of pregnant women will have experienced some type of pregnancy edema or foot swelling. Mild swelling is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. Many women report having trouble fitting into their favorite pair of shoes and observe swollen feet after long periods of standing or walking. However, you definitely want to have excessive swelling checked out, as this can be a sign of preeclampsia. If that’s the case, your pregnancy foot swelling will also be accompanied by elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine.

What Causes Pregnancy Edema?

Foot swelling (also called edema) occurs when extra blood volume produced to support the fetus pools in the lower extremities, usually after standing for extended periods or during warmer weather. As the uterus grows, pressure is applied to the pelvic blood vessels. Circulation tends to slow down, so it’s easier for fluid to stay in the legs and feet longer.

What Can Women Do About Pregnant Feet Swelling?

Naturally, the best thing you can do to avoid foot swelling is to avoid standing for long periods of time and elevate your feet on pillows so they are above your heart level. Here are a few other tips from the American Pregnancy Association:

  • Minimize the amount of time spent outdoors in warm weather
  • Wear comfortable shoes and avoid high heels
  • Wear supportive tights or compression stockings
  • Take a dip in a swimming pool
  • Use cold compresses on swollen areas
  • Drink water to flush out toxins and reduce water retention
  • Minimize salt/sodium intake

Taking frequent breaks from standing can help alleviate swelling if you can’t afford to “take it easy” at work. Propping up the feet for even just 30 minutes a day will help. Avoid crossing your legs, which can impede circulation.

What Other Pregnancy Foot Problems Are Commonly Reported?

In addition to pregnancy edema, other common issues include:

  • Flattened arches / foot size increase – Due to progesterone and relaxin hormone production (which helps stretch out the hips in anticipation for child birthing), the foot often flattens out and stretches up a size. Sometimes this change is permanent. There is not much you can do about this, except go shoe shopping!
  • Ingrown toenails – Increased pressure on the feet can sometimes cause the nail to start growing into the toe. Small ingrown nails can be headed off early by soaking the nail to soften it and cutting the nail at an angle, peeling off the excess nail. Larger, deeper ingrown toenails will need to be seen by a podiatrist immediately for debridement.
  • Pregnancy foot cramps / heel pain – Cramping especially occurs during sleep, usually due to dehydration. You can try wearing a night splint to keep the foot flexed while sleeping, which reduces the likelihood of cramping. Stretching has also proven effective.

How Can A NYC Podiatrist Help?

Podiatrists should be part of your pregnancy team. A foot doctor can ensure that you wear the best possible shoes with solid arch support and padding. Custom-measured orthotics specially made to fit your feet can also help support the arch. Podiatrists may also prescribe special support hose for added comfort and treat other foot ailments like ingrown nails, foot infections, toenail infections, or plantar fasciitis pain.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.