You've heard all the pregnancy old wives tales, right? How you'll look terrible if you're having a girl because she'll absorb your beauty, that you need to eat for two, and how every part of you will get bigger, including your feet. It's all a bunch of nonsense, isn't it? Well, not exactly. No, a baby girl won't make you any less beautiful, no, you need to scoff down everything in your food cupboard, but yes, there is a chance that your prized size 7 Christian Louboutins may start to pinch around the toes. Would you like a tissue?
Why Will I Get Clown Feet?
Firstly, lets get one thing clear: you won't have clown feet, you won't be asked to join the circus, and you won't need to get shoes specially made for you. Your feet won't change dramatically to the point where strangers are pointing at you in the street. In fact, you can expect a change of just 2 to 10 millimeters in length, but if you're used to the size of your pre-pregnancy feet, then the difference might seem quite big to you.
Around 60 to 70 percent of pregnant women report changes in foot size and shape during pregnancy, and although the exact reason for this remains largely unknown, there are two likely causes. Firstly, during pregnancy ours bodies produce a hormone called relaxin. Sounds good, doesn't it? What relaxin does is loosen your joints and muscles so that the pelvis is more malleable to allow for the baby to pass through. This is why many pregnant women suffer with aching joints and especially hip pain. Unfortunately, relaxin doesn't know that it's only the pelvis that needs loosening up, and it affects the whole body, including the feet. This allows the feet to stretch, and research has found that feet widen as well as lengthen during pregnancy.
The second likely explanation as to why you're getting sores from squeezing into a pair of shoes two sizes too small is that the expanding of the feet is a natural protection method that the body uses to make sure both you and your baby are safe. Sometime around the second trimester, when our bumps are really starting to stand out, our center of gravity changes; it moves forward to accommodate the belly. When this happens it can be quite difficult to maintain balance, even when just going for a leisurely stroll, so the theory is that our feet grow to provide a larger base for us to balance on. Clever, eh?
Is It Permanent?
Here's the bad news, ladies. In some cases, feet will never return to their pre-pregnancy size. Research shows that at 5 months after the birth, foot size is very unlikely to shrink, whereas after 5 months, some do and some don't. There doesn't seem to be a reason why, it's just the luck of the draw. The good news, however, is that studies also show that increased foot size is a complaint mostly reported by first time moms, with those having second, third, fourth babies etc. not seeing any more substantial differences. So if you're planning a big family, don't worry, your feet won't grow to the size of a house!
Are There Any Risks?
Having big feet isn't risky. However, the specific changes that occur during pregnancy could potentially cause problems in later life. What happens when the length and width of the feet increase during pregnancy is that the arch of the foot decreases, leaving you with a bit of a case of flatfoot. People with flat feet are thought to be at increased risk of arthritis as they age due to the natural way the foot is held when there is little or no arch. It's possible that the risks of arthritis could be lessened by wearing specially designed shoes that encourage the foot to be held differently, but this isn't proven to work for women who have flatfoot due to pregnancy.
Are There Any Advantages?
Bizarrely, there is a great deal of research being undertaken that looks at possible links between foot size and the type of birth and delivery that is achieved. It's believed that foot size corresponds to pelvic width, so the greater the foot size, the easier it should be for a baby to be born, which is good news for moms-to-be packing away their high heels. Is it true? Well, possibly! Although there tends to only be negligible differences, most studies have found a consistent and steady trend of women with larger shoe sizes having more natural, vaginal births, and women with smaller shoe sizes needing more assisted and surgical births. Of course, it's not guaranteed, but it is a small glimmer of hope!
Can I Just Squeeze Into My Old Shoes?
Absolutely not. While it is so tempting to just put up with the pain in the name of fashion, it can be dangerous to wear shoes that are too small, especially during pregnancy. For one thing, not having adequate foot support can increase the risk of taking a tumble, which can be dangerous for both you and your baby, but for those with diabetes the risks of wearing small shoes are even greater.
Gestational diabetes is a common pregnancy condition. It behaves exactly the same as diabetes, but develops during pregnancy and disappears once your baby has been born. Diabetics have increased risk of problems with the circulatory system, which affects the extremities, such as the hands and feet, the worst. A side effect of diabetes is sores on the feet which can't heal because there isn't enough blood flow reaching the feet to aid the recovery process. If you've got gestational diabetes, and you're squeezing your feet into tight shoes, you're increasing the risk of sores that won't heal, which can become infected and lead to a whole host of complications. Just don't do it. If you have to, sell your old shoes to fund a new pair in a bigger size! After all, even pregnant women need great shoes.