When most women learn that they have a baby on the way, they brace themselves for what’s supposed to be the most magical time of their lives. From being able to eat whatever you crave, to having your significant other pamper you 24/7, pregnancy is going to be sweet, right?
While it’s true that growing a tiny new human can be magical, it can also totally suck. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. Maternity leave can be a battle all on its own, and let’s not forget about everyone wanting to get handsy with your bump.
Of course, pregnancy is a beautiful thing. But when you’re dealing with aches and pains — like sore feet — it’s hard not to feel otherwise. Fortunately, a gentle foot massage can usually do the trick to ease those aching dogs, but is it safe?
What Should I Know About Foot Massage During Pregnancy?
Tootsies. Dogs. Hot toes. Whatever you call your feet, there’s no denying that they take quite a bit of wear and tear during pregnancy.
In fact, foot pain is a very common symptom that many pregnant women experience — especially in the third trimester when their tummy is at its biggest. Because of all this extra weight and stress on the feet, getting around when there’s a bun in the oven can become a challenge.
What Foot Problems Do Pregnant Women Face?
Expectant mothers often have pain around the heel and arch of the foot, where a common condition known as plantar fasciitis may make its debut when the tissue becomes irritated.
The inflamed tissue runs across the bottom of the foot and can feel like a tender bruise or a stabbing pain that hits you when your feet touch the ground. In other words, it’s not fun. But due to weight gain putting more strain on the feet, it’s not uncommon during pregnancy.
Other common foot problems that may plague a woman’s pregnancy include:
Over-pronation is a very common pregnancy complaint. It happens when weight is gained very quickly, particularly during the first trimester, which can impact the foot structure and ultimately cause the arch to collapse.
A pregnant body also releases a little hormone called relaxin, which helps the pelvis stretch and open for delivery. This can relax ligaments in the feet, ankles, and legs, too, making them extra flexible and contributing to the appearance of flat feet. As ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the feet and legs all have to work harder to support the foot, pain is almost inevitable.
Pregnant women are no strangers to swelling in the feet— aka edema. Although it typically occurs in the latter part of pregnancy, edema can strike at any point, often worsening as a woman’s due date nears.
Usually caused by the extra blood and fluid that accumulates to support the growing fetus, swelling in the feet can be very painful, making it challenging to walk, let alone stand.
Note: While mild swelling in the lower extremities can be normal during pregnancy, sudden swelling — especially if it’s only in one leg — could indicate a blood clot (aka deep vein thrombosis). If this occurs, be sure to make an appointment with your OBGYN to get it checked soonest!
- Cracked Heels
Thanks to those wonderful fluctuating pregnancy hormones, it’s not uncommon to experience less-than-favorable skin while pregnant — specifically, cracked heels.
Dry, cracked heels are something that most people don’t think about until their feet start to ache because they’ve cracked either a spot that’s constantly under pressure when walking or is so deep that it hurts regardless of walking. Aside from looking unappealing, cracked heels can be painful, bleed, and in some cases, lead to infection.
Fortunately — and unlike other types of foot pain — cracked heels are usually an easy fix and even easier to avoid. Simply keep your feet sufficiently hydrated with a great moisturizer like our Soothing Oatmeal Lotion, and this shouldn’t be something you experience.
Can Massage Therapy Soothe These Common Foot Problems?
Yup! Not only does a foot massage feel oh-so-good, but it can do wonders to ease aches and pains to help make your pregnancy a little less painful and a little more enjoyable. Some of the benefits of foot massage include:
Benefit #1: Lowers Stress Levels
Massage is known to lower the levels of cortisol — aka, your body’s stress hormone. The result? An overall feeling of calmness, relaxation, and warmth.
In addition, a number of studies have indicated that massage can boost both serotonin and dopamine (your “happy” hormones) levels, sometimes up to 30 percent. This can lead to a balanced mood and improved focus while imparting an overall feeling of serenity and bliss.
Benefit #2: Improves Blood Circulation
As mentioned earlier, pregnant women tend to retain more fluids. The heavy uterus also adds more pressure on leg veins, which can slow down blood flow. By undergoing a gentle foot massage, you may experience some much-needed relief due to the increase in blood circulation that massage provides.
Benefit #3: Shorter Labor
Believe it or not, massage may shorten the time in active labor by up to three hours. This means less anesthesia, less pain, and less time until you can finally hold your sweet small bundle in your arms.
Are There Any Risks?
When your feet ache, your first remedy might be to recruit your S.O. for a soothing rubdown — and while a foot massage can certainly help ease pain, it’s important to know that there are some potential risks involved, especially if you have a history of clots.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a clot that can form deep in the inner veins of the legs. If you have intense pain with swelling, a clot has likely formed. What does this have to do with massage, you ask?
In short, the vibration of a massage can cause the clot to unhinge itself from the artery wall, causing it to travel to the heart or lungs, which can put you at high risk for stroke. So, if you’re at any risk for DVT — or notice swelling that’s warm to the touch — steer clear of massage.
Another risk of massage is accidentally putting pressure on a trigger point that can stimulate uterine contractions — hence why it’s of the utmost importance to only get a foot massage by a licensed prenatal massage therapist. The acupressure points that should be avoided at all times during pregnancy include:
- Spleen 6 (SP6) Acupressure Point
- Urinary Bladder 67
- Urinary Bladder 60
- Gallbladder 21
- Large Intestine 4
That said, it’s worth noting that current evidence is pretty limited in proving a true link between certain acupressure points and miscarriage or even early labor. Still, it’s best to avoid any risk that could potentially harm the fetus, so if you ask us, we’d say it’s probably a good idea to just skip over these sensitive areas.
So, is foot massage safe during pregnancy?
Here’s the deal: a gentle foot massage is great for many reasons. Not only can it help to soothe aches and pains, it is also known to reduce stress levels, improve blood circulation, and even help with delivery.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should run to get a pedicure or enlist a buddy to rub your sore feet because when it comes to foot massages — there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.
In other words, foot massage during pregnancy is safe, but only when done by a certified massage therapist with extensive prenatal experience — this is especially true if you have a history of blood clots.
Don’t have time to book a session with a masseuse? Try a warm, soothing bath with our Therapeutic Bath Salts instead. The warm water will help to boost blood circulation to reduce swelling, while our therapeutic blend of salts works to ease aches, pains, and tension. What’s not to love?