The miracle of childbirth is a wonderful thing, however it is not without its share of pain and suffering. As a woman progresses through the different stages of her pregnancy, her body will change in many ways, and those changes can sometimes bring ailments such as plantar fasciitis.
Why do pregnant women get plantar fasciits?
In pregnant women, higher doses of the relaxin hormone are naturally released. This hormone softens the ligaments within the body, including the plantar fascia. Due to the added weight during pregnancy, the plantar fascia is put under greater strain, and can become damaged and inflammed.
Below we will look in more depth at the contributing factors that can cause a pregnant woman to suffer with plantar fasciitis.
How Does Relaxin Cause Plantar Fasciitis?
Relaxin is a hormone that is produced in both the male and female body.
During pregnancy, the production and release of relaxin into the body is much greater, especially in the first trimester. The purpose for this is to help the fetus to attach to the uterus wall, promotes placenta growth and inhibits contractions which could result in premature childbirth.
Later in the pregnancy, the relaxin hormone will soften the ligaments in the pelvis and birth canal, to ease the delivery of the baby.
It is this relaxing of the ligaments that contributes to pregnant women getting plantar fasciitis.
How Does Relaxin Affect The Plantar Fascia?
As we have established, relaxin softens the ligaments to help prepare the body to deliver the baby.
Unfortunately, this helping hand by mother nature cannot differentiate between the ligamnets in the birthing area, and those around the rest of the body. Therefore, it softens all the ligaments within the body, including the plantar fascia.
It is not uncommon for pregnant women to become clumsy or uncoordinated during their pregnancy, due to the relaxation of the ligaments. As the relaxin does its magic, the ligaments holding the joints in place can become looser, especially in the knees, ankles, elbows and wrists.
How Does A Relaxed Plantar Fascia Cause Plantar Fasciitis?
The purpose of the plantar fascia is to create an arch in the foot and act as a kind of shock absorber when our body weight is applied.
With the softening of the plantar fascia due to the relaxin hormone, as well as the added weight of carrying a baby, the plantar fascia is no longer able to fully support the load.
With continually increasing weight being applied to the feet, the plantar fascia is stretched more than normal, which can result in damage and inflammation occuring ie: plantar fasciitis.
Why Do Pregnant Women Get Flat Feet?
With the softening of the ligaments and the ever increasing weight being applied to the foot, the plantar fascia is no longer able to form an arch.
Without the arch to support the foot, the base of the foot lies flat against the ground, and the plantar fascia is stretched to the max. This is referred to as overpronation of the feet, or ‘flat feet’.
The additional weight being constantly applied to the now ‘flat feet’ and overstretched plantar fascia, means that there is little to no support, or cushioning, to protect from injury.
As the feet begin to swell, pregnant women begin walking barefoot or wearing flat unsupportive shoes. This places greater stress on the plantar fascia and increases the chances of plantar fasciitis developing.
How Can Pregnant Women Prevent Plantar Fasciitis?
Just like with anybody else, it is not entirely possible to prevent plantar fasciitis from developing, whether pregnant or not. However, there are 3 simple steps a pregnant woman can take to help minimise the risk of getting the condition.
- Take Plenty Of Rest
- Wear Suitable Supportive Footwear
- Keep Barefoot Walking To A Minimum
Just like the saying goes, prevention is better than the cure.
If a pregnant woman limits the amount of time she spends on her feet, and wears sensible, well fitting, supportive shoes during the times she is on her feet, it will go a long way towards preventing plantar fasciitis from developing.
After long periods on her feet, she should take the time to rest, massage and apply ice packs to the soles of the feet. This will help reduce swelling and inflammation.
Walking barefoot, as tempting as it is for pregnant women, should be avoided or kept to a minimum. Barefoot walking applies much more stress to the plantar fascia than supportive shoe walking. With the added weight from pregnancy, that stress is increased further, risking damage to the plantar fascia.
Birkenstocks are a popular footwear choice for pregnant women due to being easy to slip on and off, offering support, as well as allowing swollen feet the room to breathe.
Post Pregnancy Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
Although no longer pregnant, it is likely that the effects of the relaxin hormone will be present for a while.
Whilst they are not carrying the added weight of a baby anymore, new mums will be constantly getting up and down to see to the babies routine of feeding, bathing and nap times.
Bending over, kneeling down or squatting on your toes can all add stress to an already fragile plantar fascia.
New mothers need to take care, and continue with the preventative measures mentioned above, if they want to minimise the risk of any plantar fascia injury.
If possible, having partners take some of the strain, while finding time to rest and pamper their feet a little, can make all the difference.
Remember, any foot pain should be dealt with whilst it is in the early stages. If you have developed a pain in the sole of your foot, then resting, icing and gentle stretching exercises, should keep the condition from getting worse and ensure a speedy recovery.