Growing a baby is an amazing and exciting time. But as we all know, the physical changes that come with a baby’s growth over 9 months can do weird and wondrous things to your body. Swollen feet and dry, cracked heels are a common complaint we see amongst pregnant women who visit our clinic.
Cracked and Painful Heels in Pregnancy
During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause your skin to lose its elasticity and moisture. Swelling and increased weight, particularly in the 3rd trimester, places extra strain on the skin around the heels.
Thankfully there are steps you can take to address this.
Here are our Top 5 Tips for treating and preventing dry and cracked heels during pregnancy:
1. Remove the dead skin before it becomes built-up. A little bit and often.
Once the skin becomes hard and callused, it’s more brittle and prone to cracks that will travel through the callus and into healthy skin. That’s when things start to get nasty. Use a pumice stone or foot sander – you can pick these up from any decent chemist.
2. Wear shoes that are well padded and cup the heel.
Good shoes will reduce mechanical stress at the border of your heel while standing and walking. Make sure you avoid being barefoot and wearing sandals that are hard surfaced with no heel cup. Sneakers are best. Avoid high-heels!
3. Use moisturiser.
This reduces and slows moisture loss through the skin which helps maintain your skin’s elasticity and prevents cracking. Moisturiser without too many additives is best. Use good quality sorbolene, Vaseline or if you’re keen to stay totally natural, coconut oil. While we would usually recommend patients use a urea-based moisturiser it’s probably best to avoid this during pregnancy.
4. Control swelling.
If it isn’t too painful on your heels, stay as active as you can. This keeps the blood moving and reduces swelling. Whenever you can, put your feet up to help reduce the fluid from around your feet and ankles (where we don’t want it).
5. See a podiatrist.
This is like hitting the reset button on your heels! We will remove the dead, callused skin back to healthy, flexible tissue and from there we hand it over to you to maintain it.
Swollen Feet and Ankles During Pregnancy
Swollen feet and ankles are a normal part of pregnancy, especially in the 3rd trimester. Your body is producing more blood to help the baby grow. This blood can accumulate in the small vessels of the foot, with the fluid leaking out into the surrounding tissues causing swelling.
Adding to this, the baby and uterus can press on and slightly block the veins that return blood from your legs back up to your heart, and your hormones can make the walls of the veins softer and more flexible so they are less efficient at carrying blood.
The increased pressure on the skin around the feet and ankles can be really uncomfortable. It is often worse at the end of the day or if you have been standing or sitting for a long period of time.
There are some simple things you can do to reduce pregnancy related foot and ankle swelling:
- Get your feet up and elevated.
- Avoid being barefoot and wear a supportive sneaker as much as you can.
- Avoid sitting and standing for long periods.
- Stay active. Even a slow walk around the neighbourhood can get the blood moving and reduce fluid.
- Exercises to help reduce swollen feet; seated calf raises, rotate your feet in circles, clockwise, anti-clockwise
- Get a gentle massage from a trained professional to promote fluid return.
- Consider wearing a compression sock or stockings to provide support.
Swollen ankles and feet in pregnancy can be uncomfortable but should not be unbearable. If you are finding it too much, there may be something else going on and it is worth seeing a podiatrist for assessment and advice.