Pregnancy leads to lasting changes in foot structure

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Mar;92(3):232-40. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e31827443a9.


Objective: Women are disproportionately affected by musculoskeletal disorders. Parous women seem to be at a particularly elevated risk for structural and functional changes in the lower limbs. The combination of increased weight on the joints with potentially greater laxity during pregnancy could lead to permanent structural changes in the feet. Although arches may become lax during pregnancy, it is unknown whether the changes persist. The objective of this study was to determine whether arch height loss persists postpartum.

Design: Forty-nine women completed this longitudinal study. Static and dynamic arch measurements were collected in the first trimester and at 19 wks postpartum. Linear mixed models were used to determine whether outcome measures significantly changed overall or by parity.

Results: Arch height and rigidity indices significantly decreased, with concomitant increases in foot length and arch drop. The first pregnancy accounted for the reduction in arch rigidity and the increases in foot length and arch drop. No changes were detected in the center of pressure excursion index.

Conclusions: Pregnancy seems to be associated with a permanent loss of arch height, and the first pregnancy may be the most significant. These changes in the feet could contribute to the increased risk for musculoskeletal disorders in women. Further research should assess the efficacy of rehabilitative interventions for prevention of pregnancy-related arch drop.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Foot / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy*