A new study from the University of Iowa confirms what many women have long suspected - that pregnancy permanently changes the size and shape of their feet.
"I had heard women reporting changes in their shoe size with pregnancy, but found nothing about that in medical journals or textbooks," says study author Neil Segal. "In order to study this more scientifically, we measured women's feet at the beginning of their pregnancy and five months after delivery. We found that pregnancy does indeed lead to permanent changes in the feet."
Specifically, the study showed that for about 60 - 70 percent of women, their feet became longer and wider. Segal said that arch height and measures of arch rigidity decreased significantly from early pregnancy to five months after childbirth, causing corresponding increases in foot length (between 2 and 10 mm) and arch drop. The study also suggested that first pregnancies may account for most of the observed 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 further 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 musculoskeletal health can be protected during pregnancy.
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Source: University of Iowa