Understanding the Impact of Pregnancy On the Health of Your Feet

Posted on: 13 January 2016


Morning sickness and back pain are common complaints during pregnancy, but the changes to your body that pregnancy brings can also affect your feet. As your bump grows, your centre of gravity shifts and this can cause your feet to experience strain beyond that required for normal daily activities. Additionally, the release of a pregnancy hormone called relaxin can affect the supportive structures of your feet. Relaxin softens the ligaments and blood vessels in your body to prepare you for labour, and when the ligaments in your feet soften, your feet can spread out and lose strength.

These two changes can lead to you developing fallen arches and oedema during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester. Here's an overview of these two conditions:


Oedema is commonly known as swollen feet and occurs in pregnancy when your circulation slows down as a result of your blood vessels softening, which makes it difficult for them to push fluid up from your legs toward your heart. You might think oedema doesn't sound too serious, but the effect of relaxin on your circulation can leave you at an increased risk of developing varicose veins and blood clots, so you should always have oedema reviewed by your doctor or podiatrist.

You can encourage the fluid that pools in your feet and lower legs to move up toward your heart by raising your legs above your heart for a few minutes at regular intervals throughout the day. Additionally, gentle exercises can encourage better circulation by causing your leg muscles to contract, which promotes the flow of blood through your legs. Your podiatrist can show you exercises you can do at home and at work to minimise the effects of oedema.

Fallen Arches

Your foot arches can collapse during pregnancy as a result of increased weight and changes to your gait. When your feet flatten due to the additional pressure on their supporting structures, you can experience pain when walking. This pain occurs due to inflammation of the joints in your feet, which is caused by your feet rolling inwards when they lack appropriate support.

Fallen arches can be easily managed with the use of orthotic insoles. Your podiatrist will measure your feet and order a pair of custom-made insoles that will give the arches of your feet additional support and reduce pressure on your joints. Your podiatrist can also advise you on the types of footwear that offer the best support during pregnancy.

If you experience any foot pain during your pregnancy, schedule a foot exam with a podiatrist practice as soon as possible.