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Pregnancy Permanently Changes a Woman's Foot Size Confirmed

Update Date: Mar 01, 2013 12:50 PM EST

Scientists have finally confirmed what many women have long suspected: pregnancy can permanently change the size and shape of feet.

Researchers at the University of Iowa say that flat feet are a common problem for pregnant women.  The extra weight and increased looseness of the joints during pregnancy flattens out the arch of the foot, according to researchers.

What's more, the latest findings published in the March issue of the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, suggest that this loss of arch height may be permanent.

"I had heard women reporting changes in their shoe size with pregnancy, but found nothing about that in medical journals or textbooks," Dr. Neil Segal, UI associate professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation, said in a university release.

"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," he said.

Segal and his team studied 49 pregnant women and collected the women's static and dynamic arch measurements during the first trimester of pregnancy and five months after childbirth.

Researchers found that the feet in about 60 percent to 70 percent of women in the study became longer and wider. Researchers explained that on average arch height and arch rigidity in early pregnancy decreased significantly five months after childbirth, which led to the corresponding increases in foot length and arch drop.  The study revealed that the increases in foot length varied from 2mm to 10mm.

However, researchers did not detect any significant change in the distribution of foot pressure.

Researchers say that the findings also suggest 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," Segal added. "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 and his team are currently researching whether these foot changes in pregnancy can lead to future health problems like arthritis and what pregnant women can do to protect their musculoskeletal health.  But whatever researchers may find, the recent findings may be reason enough for new moms to go on a shoe shopping spree.

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