Foot Pain and Pregnancy; The Impact of Edema

Foot pain during pregnancy is debilitating. Most often attributed to some level of edema, foot pain can occur at any stage of pregnancy but most often occurs during the second half of the gestational period. When learning of a pregnancy, the best route for a pregnant woman is to focus on the preventative programs available to reduce and eliminate pregnancy related disorders such as edema and foot pain.

For many pregnant women, foot pain is attributed to edema resulting from displacement of the normal bodily fluids. Displacement occurs when pressure of the pelvis builds and constricts the blood flow to the lower extremities, thereby preventing normal water distribution through the pregnant woman’s body. The resulting foot pain is excruciating and can be localized to the heel, arch or ball of the foot and is generally not cause for concern. In rare cases, however, if the edema is not limited to the feet, and, instead, includes hands, face and neck, consultation with your obstetrician should occur immediately as this may be cause for concern and indicate the presence of a more serious pregnancy related condition such as pre-eclampsia.

To avoid the onset of foot pain, a pregnant woman can perform a variety of preventative measures which will decrease the level of bodily water retention and displacement. Preventative options might include limiting sodium intake, avoiding junk foods, wearing pregnancy support stockings, avoiding chocolate, sleeping on the left side, elevating feet throughout the day, performing a variety of leg stretches throughout the day and drinking plenty of water. What is important to note is that excessive retention of body fluid is not permanent and may result in frequent urination and sweating in the days immediately following childbirth.

In addition to these preventative measures, recent studies have found pregnant woman who participate in water aerobic or water related activities experience less frequency of edema in the lower extremities. In fact, the greater the water pressure, or the deeper the water, the greater the opportunity for internal fluids to circulate, bypassing the lymphatic system. The immersion in the water provides a more efficient method for relieving edema and is considered better than simple bed rest. In combination, two methods, water fitness and sleeping on the left, are almost guaranteed to eliminate edema in the lower extremities and even the displacement of bodily fluids.

With many fitness facilities now offering programs designed specifically for pregnant women, it is recommended that, early in the pregnancy, a “fitness” discussion with your obstetrician take place. The discussion should involve not only gestational fetal questions but questions related to maternal health and preventative fitness programs. Once cleared by the obstetrician, contact your local fitness facility for information regarding programs designed for pregnant women. In doing so, you will prevent spiking levels of edema and the onset of debilitating foot pain.

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