You may have heard rumors that your feet grow during a pregnancy, and depending on how much you love shoes, this might've really freaked you out. The truth is, many pregnant women's feet do grow, but it's not usually that significant. Depending on your situation, your whole shoe closet might not have to go to waste. Here's the deal.
Why does it happen?
By now, you've probably realized that most changes brought on by pregnancy are the result of hormones. In the case of foot growth, it's no different. Specifically, the growth is caused by the hormone relaxin, which does exactly what it sounds like: relax and loosen your ligaments and joints. It does this to lengthen and soften the cervix and pelvic region to make birth easier. But it also has the side effect of relaxing all of your other joints and ligaments, including those in your feet. This allows the ligaments in your feet to stretch and spread out.
What actually happens?
As your feet stretch and spread out because of the relaxin and because your weight is pressing down on them, your arches get flatter, which can cause you to gain width and/or length in your feet. For most women, this change is usually just half a shoe size, and it occurs very gradually. You might not even notice the change – especially if you're in denial about having to buy bigger shoes. But if you keep trying to fit into too-small shoes, you could end up with corns, ingrown nails and bunions, so don't wait to head to the shoe store.
Is it permanent?
Not to burst your bubble, but shoe size and shape changes that occur during pregnancy are permanent. However, your feet may be bigger while you're pregnant because of swelling, and as soon as you deliver your baby and get rid of the excess weight, that will go away. One study from the University of Iowa found that changes in width, length and arch height seem to happen only during the first pregnancy, so if you're not a first time mother, you shouldn't have to worry about your feet getting any bigger during your next pregnancy. If this will be your first child, there's no telling how big your feet will grow, but you may have to surrender a few of your favorite shoes once you give birth!