Have you noticed that your feet seem bigger while you are pregnant or post natal? You are not imagining things! They may actually be bigger.
By bigger we don’t mean the bones have lengthened, more that they have swollen and splayed to make them seem wider and longer.
You may have heard of a hormone called relaxin. It is secreted by the corpus luteum and ovaries during your menstrual cycle and further by the placenta during pregnancy. It is not just a female hormone, men secrete relaxin through the prostate also. Generally, it plays a large role in tissue remodelling after injury of muscle, tendons, ligaments and bone in both sexes.
In women who aren’t pregnant (and have a regular 28 day menstrual cycle), relaxin peaks at day 14 which is the time of ovulation. It’s during ovulation that it aids in the shedding of the endometrium lining of the uterus. During pregnancy there is a high release of the hormone in the first trimester (it peaks at week 12) then a steady stream until birth where it drops off drastically. There is a common misconception that new mums will still release the relaxin hormone during breast feeding but this is not the case. It has been shown that levels of relaxin post birth drop to near pre-pregnancy levels within the first 24 hours. The next time the hormone is released in abundance is the first ovulation period after pregnancy.
Relaxin and your feet during pregnancy
It’s purpose during pregnancy is to allow tissue to elongate in preparation for the growth of the baby, as well as moderate the heart, kidneys and arteriole flow as there is more demand on these systems as the baby grows in utero.
The relaxin hormone will not just elongate tissue around the pelvis, it has an impact on the entire body. This includes the feet. Supporting ligaments and tendons around the feet and ankles will “stretch”, splaying the feet making them wider and longer. This can also place you at a greater risk of ankle sprains and falls
Add into that the extra weight as the baby grows and swelling of the feet from increased cardiac output and kidney function and your feet will grow.
All this can lead to a general achy feeling in the feet, as well as possible injury to the tissue.
Common issues may be:
- Plantar Fasciopathy (heel or arch pain)
- Top of foot pain
- Toe joint capsule injury
- Achilles Tendinopathy
- Callused skin to high pressure areas
Trouble with your feet can extend beyond or appear after pregnancy. In some cases, the effects of Relaxin on the feet can remain. This means the stretchy supporting ligaments stay lengthened and don’t reduce back to their original functional length. Sometimes it’s not until after Pregnancy and you start to exercise again that your feet or ankles start to give you some trouble.
Managing foot pain during pregnancy
If you do develop discomfort in your feet during or after pregnancy, you’re not alone. It is very common and in the majority of cases it will not be an issue beyond your baby’s birth. For some women, their foot pain may need some attention. So what should you do if your feet start to get sore?
First thing is check your footwear. Are they the right size? If they feel tight, invest in a new pair of comfortable shoes with a stable yet soft sole with plenty of room for the toes. When you’re out of the shoes with your feet up, try to do some toe waving exercises. This is a simple movement you can do sitting or laying.
If your pain or discomfort is following you around everywhere or you’re unsure of what shoes to wear or care for your feet, speak to a Podiatrist. There are many ways a Podiatrist can help get you through your pregnancy without the burden of foot pain or get you back exercising postpartum. This can be through:
- Foot mobilisation
- Dry Needling (postnatal only) and soft tissue release
- Exercise Therapies
- Foot orthoses
- Footwear advice
- General nail and skin care
If you’re in need of some advice, our Podiatrist at PhysioPod Co. can help you get through your pregnancy or get you back to your active self after bub.
(BHlthSc. Podiatry) M. A. Pod. Asc