Pregnancy woman doing tree pose in front of a mirrorYou just found out you're pregnant. Along with the joy of having a new baby comes the uncertainty about your health and how well you'll adapt to your changing body. For many women this is a smooth transition, while others have to contend with swollen feet and plantar fasciitis.

One problem that's rarely discussed is the increased likelihood of falls. About 25% of women fall during pregnancy and 10% fall more than once. Falls pose a risk to both the baby and the mother. So learning more about what to do to mitigate this risk is essential.

Why Pregnant Women Fall

In addition to weight gain, your center of gravity changes making it harder to maintain stability when you walk. Hormones also increase during pregnancy. One of those hormones relaxin helps to loosen ligaments and other body structures in preparation for childbirth. It also increases the force on joints, increases pelvic tilt, and loosens ligaments in the feet. All of these factors contribute to changes in balance which increases risk for trips and falls.

A study in 2019 that tracked 15 pregnant women found that their balance worsened as their pregnancy progressed. Women in the study with poor balance before pregnancy had the worst balance during pregnancy. Another study found that balance during walking decreases throughout pregnancy.

What You Can Do To Prevent Falls

Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of falling by conditioning your body to adjust to the changes in your balance and by wearing supportive shoes.

Exercise to Prevent Falls During Pregnancy

Regular exercise during pregnancy helps improve your posture and decreases discomfort and fall risk. Maintaining a strong core, thighs, and hips creates a solid foundation for your changing body and its balance. Make sure you talk to your doctor before taking on a new exercise program.

Exercises recommendation by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists include walking, swimming, riding a stationary bicycle, prenatal yoga and Pilates classes.

In addition to engaging in the exercises above, some specific strength and balance exercises to do are:

  • Pelvic tilts- these maintain and build core strength.

  • Squats - strengthen quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

  • Hip extensions - strengthen hip and lower back muscles.

  • Alternate standing on one leg and then the other, with a chair for balance if you need it.

For additional exercises, check out these offered by Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy to strengthen pelvic floor, core, and posture.

Proper Foot Support

Proper foot support is essential during this delicate time. The following tips will help ensure your shoes can help reduce your risk for falls.

  • Make sure your shoes fit well - when purchasing new shoes, be sure to have your feet measured. It's not uncommon for pregnant women to experience an increase in shoe size.

  • Don't wear shoes with worn out soles - turn your shoes over. If you see an uneven wear pattern you very likely need new shoes. Worn out shoes won't support you during your pregnancy and can increase your chance for a fall.

  • Struggling with swollen feet? - buy shoes that will accommodate them but are also sturdy. A good example of a shoe that does both is the SAS shoe called Bliss.

  • Consider inserts or custom orthotics if you pronate - even if you don't have heel pain or plantar fasciitis it's still a good idea to replace your insoles with an over-the-counter insert like Powersteps, particularly if you tend to pronate when you walk. If you are experiencing foot pain not alleviated by an over-the-counter insert you'll likely need a custom orthotic.

  • Shop for shoes at the end of the day - you may already have swollen feet, but they'll be even more swollen towards the end of the day. Shop too early and you risk buying a shoe that's too small.

  • Be sure to avoid any exercises that increase your risk of falling.

  • Avoid wearing high heels as they can throw off your already precarious balance.

  • Test your shoes for stability - shoes should bend at the toe not in the center, be difficult to twist when you try to wring them out, and have a stiff heel counter that you can't move easily. For more information, watch the video: How to Test Any Shoe for Stability.

If you're pregnant and experiencing foot pain, call us today at 206-368-7000 for an appointment. Often same day for emergencies and less than 2 weeks for chronic foot pain. You can also request an appointment online.

Seattle foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Rion Berg offers foot care for patients with bunions, heel pain, diabetes, fungal toenails, ingrown nails, and surgical solutions when needed to residents of Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and other surrounding suburbs.

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