Do pregnant women's feet "grow" during pregnancy? I often capture the "grow and glow" of pregnancy during maternal photography shoots; however, we focus on the expanding belly, not the growing--and aching--feet. That represents a change many women either don't expect or don't want. A larger foot size concerns many pregnant women. Others anticipate many changes in their bodies and feel betrayed when their feet grow larger with pregnancy, too.
Increasing a shoe size during pregnancy happens for several reasons. Relaxin, a natural hormone released during pregnancy weeks before the actual birth, loosens ligaments to aid in birthing. It also loosens ligaments elsewhere, including the feet. Ligaments help hold together the 26 small bones of the foot. Relax the ligaments and the foot spreads during pregnancy.
Many women retain water in their feet while pregnant, and that can further keep these small bones drifting apart to the point where they never go back together as tightly as they used to. About half (or more) of pregnant women experience this.
If you want to keep your shoe size (and closet full of shoes), closely follow your OB-GYN's recommendations for weight gain. Carrying around too much weight further burdens your aching feet.
Whenever you sit down, elevate your feet above your heart to reduce swelling. Avoid eating too much sodium, which causes more water retention, and otherwise eat a healthful diet.
Exercise can help improve circulation and aid in keeping swelling under control. Of course, avoid exercise with an inherently high risk of falling (such as inline skating) and contact sports. Unless you have other health risks, most pregnant women can engage in many forms of exercise until delivery.
Some women wear compression stockings and supportive shoes with good arches to keep swelling down and retain the proper shape of the foot. Massage therapy may also reduce swelling. (Always let the therapist know you're pregnant--even if it seems obvious to you.)
For some women, their swollen feet return to their normal size after they recover from pregnancy, especially if their swelling seems to fluctuate. For those whose feet seem to keep getting bigger and bigger, the change is likely permanent.
Should you go up a shoe size during pregnancy, take heart. It's not the worst thing that can happen to you. And at least you have a great excuse to go shoe shopping!