During pregnancy the arch of the foot flattens out, possibly due to the extra weight but also laxity in the joints associated with pregnancy.
A new study suggests that this loss of arch height is permanent.
“We measured women’s feet at the beginning of their pregnancy and five months after delivery” said Dr Neil Segal, University of Iowa professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation.
“We found that pregnancy does indeed lead to permanent changes in the feet.”
The study found that for 60-70pc of pregnant women their feet became longer and wider.
Specifically the study showed that, on average, arch height and arch rigidity decreased significantly causing corresponding increases in foot length of between two and 10mm and arch drop
The study also suggested that first pregnancies may account for most of the changes, while second, third or higher pregnancies may not further alter foot structure.
“We know that women, and especially women who have had children, are disproportionately affected by musculoskeletal disorders,” says Segal.
“It is possible that these foot changes that occur during pregnancy may help explain why, in comparison with men, women are at higher risk for pain or arthritis in their feet, knees, hips and spines.”
Segal plans to conduct follow-up studies to assess whether these foot changes lead to health problems, like arthritis, later in life.
He also is conducting studies of how women’s muscluloskeletal health can be projected during pregnancy.
The study is published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.