Ankle Strain Injuries While Pregnant

Pregnant woman lying on bed
Rest is important after straining your ankle during pregnancy. (Image: ptaha_c/iStock/Getty Images)

Swelling of the ankles during pregnancy is a common occurrence, but if pain is present on one ankle and is most noticeable while standing or walking, this often indicates an injury from a strain or sprain. Strained ankles are not as common as sprained ankles, but these injuries have similar symptoms and treatments. Consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment advice.

Identification

Pain is present with an ankle strain and you might have some difficulties bearing weight on the affected leg. A strain can cause weakness and twitching of the muscles, so your ankle may give out while you’re walking, particularly while carrying extra weight later in the pregnancy. There is often limited movement of the ankle and tightness within the surrounding tendons and muscles. If your strain is actually a sprain, the symptoms are similar, but bruising and swelling may be present, too.

Causes

A strained ankle occurs when a muscle or tendon is stretched. In severe cases, the muscle or tendon is completely torn, causing severe pain. A strain is common while you’re pregnant because your body produces the hormone relaxin, which increases the elasticity of your muscles and ligaments. The combination of relaxin production, your weight gain and your shift in gravity increases your risk of injury, the What to Expect website warns. An ankle strain while pregnant can be caused by an injury such as a fall or simply stepping on uneven surface. Stress on the muscle can also cause a strain, which can occur as your belly grows larger, particularly if you spend several hours on your feet during the day. A sprained ankle occurs when a ligament is stretched beyond its normal limit while the foot rolls, turns or twists beyond its normal limit.

Treatment

Rest your ankle for 48 hours and apply ice 20 minutes at a time at least four times per day. Keep your ankle elevated above your heart during the first couple days to reduce swelling. You can use an elastic bandage or a splint to compress and stabilize your ankle until the injury heals. These are the same steps you take if the strain happens to be a sprained ankle. If pain is severe, discuss over-the-counter pain-relief medications with your doctor; never take any medication while pregnant without her approval. Acetaminophen is believed to be safe if used for short durations, according to Drugs.com. There have been no controlled studies of ibuprofen and pregnancy as of 2011; however, ibuprofen can harm the fetus, especially if taken during the last three months of pregnancy. If a muscle, ligament or tendon is completely torn and causes a significant amount of pain, surgery is sometimes needed as a last resort — even during pregnancy.

Prevention

Relaxin prepares your body for the birth of your child, so there is no way of lessening or preventing the way this hormone relaxes your muscles, but you can take steps to avoid injuries. Exercise is beneficial if you have a healthy pregnancy and your doctor has approved physical activity, but exercises like running, jogging, cycling, dancing and hiking increase your risk of injuring your ankle. Do not wear high heals while pregnant. Wear a shoe that’s comfortable and supportive.

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