"Pregnancy creates many changes in the body, and can even affect the size of a woman's feet," says Dr. Matthew Garoufalis, a podiatrist and president of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). "And even though newborns aren't walking yet, it's understandable that mothers may have some concerns about how to best take care of their baby's feet."
The discomforts of pregnancy are common and well-known, ranging from back pain and frequent bathroom trips to feet that are both sore and bigger.
"It's not at all unusual for a woman to gain a shoe size while pregnant," Garoufalis says. "Increased weight puts more pressure on the foot, the arch flattens a bit and the foot elongates. Just a quarter-inch increase in foot length is enough to prompt a change in shoe size."
While it's probably impossible to completely avoid foot challenges during pregnancy, moms-to-be can take steps to minimize them:
* Control weight gain. Added weight is the most likely cause of foot expansion. Do your best to follow your obstetrician's guidelines for how much weight you should gain throughout the pregnancy.
* Avoid high heels. Sure you see celebrities accessorizing their baby bumps with stilettos, but a lower heel during pregnancy will relieve pressure on the foot. Also, lower heels will provide you with greater stability during a time when newly gained weight might throw off your balance. It's easy to find plenty of pretty, stylish lower heels - 1 to 2 inches in height - that will look and feel great while you're pregnant.
* Comfort and support should be key considerations any time you choose footwear, but they are even more important for pregnant women. With extra weight and pressure on your feet for nine months, you need a shoe that provides support and cushioning. Avoid thin-soled shoes (including flip-flops and ballet flats); look for shoes with thicker soles and plenty of cushioning inside the shoes. Whatever shoe you choose, it should bend only at the ball of the foot, and you should never be able to twist the sole or bend it anywhere else.
While it's common for women's feet to enlarge during pregnancy - and remain that size even after delivery - generally that size increase occurs only with a first pregnancy. So you shouldn't worry that your feet will continue to grow with subsequent pregnancies. Instead, many new moms will worry about their new baby's feet.
"The good news is, as long as the baby's feet are healthy at birth most newborns won't require special care for their feet," Garoufalis says. "Caring for your baby's feet is much like caring for the rest of her body."
Don't worry if your baby's feet look discolored or wrinkled or even have flaky, peeling skin when she is born. After nine months in protective fluid within the womb, they're bound to look a bit different from yours. Your pediatrician will look for any obvious abnormalities of your baby's feet and legs, and will let you know what to do if he or she finds some concern.
Use baby nail clippers to keep your child's toenails trimmed, cutting straight across to prevent ingrown toenails. Be sure to thoroughly dry baby's feet after a bath, and choose soft, anti-microbial socks that don't wrinkle or bunch to keep her feet warm and protected.
When she starts to walk, bare feet are best inside the house as she's learning the finer points of getting around. Outside, put her in a lightweight, flexible shoe made of natural materials.
If foot problems run in your family, consider having your child examined by a podiatrist when she begins to walk. He or she can examine your child's feet to ensure they're growing normally. You can find a podiatrist that specializes in pediatrics at www.apma.org.