The anticipation of a baby signifies a wondrous, life-changing experience. However, pregnancy also can represent troubling bodily changes that can affect the child-bearer for a lifetime. Common complaints of body dysmorphism are belly bulges medically known as diastasis recti, sagging breasts or breast ptosis and broader hips. Postpartum, mothers may also experience changes in the foot, namely, the foot bunion.
These common pregnancy physical transformations are due to a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin’s name is self descriptive - it is a hormone produced by the ovary and the placenta, which prepares the body for childbirth by relaxing the ligaments in the pelvis and widening the cervix. However, relaxin does not target one specific area and is released systemically throughout the entire body. Therefore, it can relax any and all ligaments in the body, including the foot. Ligaments function to hold bony structures together. In the presence of relaxin, ligaments loosen up and become flexible.
Foot bunions develop directly because of the biomechanics of the foot. Biomechanics simply means how the muscular structures tug and pull on the bony structures on which they attach and surround the foot. When relaxin renders the ligaments and tendons more flexible, the bones they are suppose to stabilize become vulnerable to displacement. Before pregnancy, the foot may be a stage 1 or 2 bunion. After pregnancy, a bunion is susceptible to worsening by increasing in size and rendering foot bunion pain.
Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball that can predict if a woman will develop a bunion on the foot after pregnancy. If a small bunion is present, or bunions or foot pain run in the family, some proactive measures can be taken. Using a bunion splint or a toe spacer may slow the progression of a bunion. It has been theorized that shoe orthotics, which support the arch, can may slow bunion development. However, the true test is time. If a bunion becomes chronically painful or increases in size, which makes average shoe selection impossible, seek out a cosmetic bunion and foot surgeon to discuss your options to fix your feet.