Well into her first pregnancy, Michelle Day's left foot began to noticeably swell—and ache. At first the Riverton, Utah, mom could alleviate the pain by elevating her feet at work, then staying off her feet completely once at home. But a few weeks later, her other foot began swelling too, and no amount of rest would ease the hurt.
"My skin felt stretched like balloon ready to pop," recalls Day. "Honestly, I thought if you took a pin to my feet they might break." A check-up with her OB-GYN confirmed that Day's swelling indicated a serious condition called preeclampsia. Day's doctor prescribed bed rest, and after three and half weeks in bed, Day delivered a healthy baby boy almost a month early.
While Day's condition is rare, the swelling she experienced in her pregnancy is not. Some 75 percent of pregnant women experience swelling, especially in the third trimester. Fortunately, there are several ways to ease the aches and keep swelling from worsening.
Will my feet get bigger?
Some women experience swollen feet and a bigger shoe size during pregnancy predominantly due to release of the hormone relaxin, explains Dr. Glenn Copeland, author of The Good Foot Book and a podiatrist at the Women's College Hospital in Toronto, Canada. "This hormone causes the ligaments of the foot to become lax and stretch out. Although the foot appears to be growing, it is a result of lax ligaments."
Water retention is another reason feet grow during pregnancy. The body requires more fluid to regulate blood flow and provide liquid for the developing baby, including amniotic fluid. "Pregnant women retain fluid especially in the third trimester," says Dr. Copeland. "This causes the foot to spread, making it wider."
Added weight gain may affect your feet in a couple of ways. First, your feet may stretch and widen during pregnancy to absorb added weight. Second, your feet may swell with the added pressure. How your pregnancy affects your feet is individual—some women's feet return to pre-pregnancy size, while other women will notice that they've increased a half to a whole size permanently. Along the same lines, some women experience foot swelling during pregnancy, while a lucky 25 percent of pregnant women never do.