Beauty Clinic: Help for pregnant feet
Q. I’m pregnant and know from past experience that my lower legs and feet swell as the weeks go past, especially when the weather gets warm. It’s uncomfortable and definitely not a good look. Is there anything I can do to improve things?
A. Many mums will sympathise as it is quite normal to get some swelling in pregnancy, particularly in your legs, ankles, feet and also fingers. It often gets worse at the end of the day and later in pregnancy. But although it can be uncomfy – and as you say, not very flattering – it’s unlikely to be harmful. (However, if you notice a sudden increase in swelling in your face, hands or feet, please do get medical help immediately.)
A spokesperson from the College of Podiatry (cop.org.uk) explains that the pressure of your growing womb can affect the blood flow in your feet and legs so that fluid builds up, causing swelling and sometimes throbbing. Your feet may also get bigger to the extent you might need to wear a larger shoe size. Additionally, muscles and ligaments soften and stretch (due to an increase in a hormone called relaxin) so your feet and ankles are more susceptible to strains, aches and pains.
Here are the College of Podiatry’s top tips:
• Raise your feet and legs up above the level of your heart whenever you can.
• Avoid sitting or standing for longer than 30 minutes without moving around or elevating your legs. Also, don’t cross your leg or ankles when sitting.
• Keep your lower limbs moving even when you’re sitting or lying down; try circling your feet ten times to the left, then to the right - you can also pedal your feet and legs as if you're cycling.
• Wear comfortable supportive footwear, ideally with a strap, lace, buckle or Velcro. Look for a small heel (about 3 cm), which will shift your weight a little further forward on your feet to help relieve the discomfort. Avoid wearing high heels as that can put more pressure on your joints at a time when they’re already under strain. On that last point, mums we know swear by FitFlops (fitflop.co.uk), which offer a range of the comfiest sneakers, pumps and sandals that are easy to push your feet into. As you get bigger, you won’t want to do up fiddly fastenings, which you may not even be able to see. And, of course, do book in with a podiatrist; go to Find a Podiatrist on cop.org.uk. Some do home visits.
Product-wise, Mama Mio Lucky Legs Cooling Leg Gel, £19.59 for 100ml, is a favourite with colleagues. ‘A friend gave it to me and it was very good for puffy ankles and achey feet, especially in the very heavy stage near the end,’ one young mum says. (Good present idea, then.)
Warm foot baths are ‘fantastic at the end of the day to relieve those pins and achey feet, plus they boost blood circulation from the feet to the pelvic area, which is important – particularly in the last trimester,’ advises acupuncturist and body worker Maria Christofi (@acupuncture_is_alchemy). Add a couple of drops of peppermint essential oil to refresh feet and legs; you can also massage in a few drops diluted in a base oil afterwards.
Maria adds that putting Epsom salts or magnesium flakes in the water is ‘very effective at reducing swelling. Magnesium also relaxes the system and can encourage a good nights sleep.’