Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pregnant? Avoid flip-flops

From Health

TODAY Tuesday July 15, 2008

 

On MATERNITY FOOTWEAR

Experts say flat shoes do not provide the stability and support expectant mums need

 

EVELINE GAN

eveline@mediacorp.com.sg

 

LIKE most sensible mums-to-be, I dutifully banished all my vertiginous shoes to a dusty corner of the shoe cabinet when I found out I was pregnant last year.

 

Believing that lower and flatter footwear would be safer with the extra load I was lugging around, flat strappy sandals and flip-flops became my staple footwear.

 

But I was mistaken about that. While traipsing around in flatties, I had slipped and fallen twice during my second and last trimester.

 

Contrary to what most people think, experts say that flat shoes, like high heels, are not suitable for expecting mothers.

 

Ms Jessie Phua, a senior podiatrist at Changi General Hospital, calls ultra-low footwear such as flat pumps and flip-flops “bad footwear”, which are “not meant for daily use”.

 

Similar to high heels, they are unable to provide the stability and support needed especially during pregnancy when the woman’s “back takes on a fair amount of added load and stress”.

 

And if you do slip, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to catch your fall, warned Dr Ang Huai Yan, an obstetrician and gynaecologist in private practice.

 

“With slippers, there’s nothing to hold onto the base of the foot. Also, a lot of ladies’ sandals are made of smooth bases which can be very slippery,” she said.

 

Wearing appropriate footwear is important for expecting mothers because of the various physical changes that occur during pregnancy.

 

“Proper footwear is important not only for the back but also for the knees and feet. A shuffling gait will occur if the footwear is too loose or not holding the foot properly. This form of unstable walking increases the risk of falls,” explained Ms Phua.

 

According to Dr Ang, swelling around the feet and legs is common during pregnancy, causing your shoe size to increase between one and two sizes.

 

“Especially during the third trimester, the growing foetus presses down on the pelvic veins and vena cava. This partially impedes the return of blood from your legs and causes the swelling,” she said. The vena cava is the large vein on the right side of the body. It transports blood from your lower body back to the heart.

 

A pregnant woman’s centre of gravity also tends to move forward, causing added pressure to the knees, feet and back.

 

Explaining why wearing inappropriate footwear can increase the strain in these areas, Ms Phua said: “There is a tendency for the foot to slide forward in heels, open toed slides or sling back footwear. More muscle energy is expended when the toes claw in a subconscious attempt to grip and maintain ground stability, thus increasing the strain on the back and knees.”

 

Ideally, Ms Phua said that pregnant women should wear footwear that is “broad and comfortable”.

 

“Ideal footwear should have ankle straps such as Velcro fasteners or laces, have a broad base at the heel and forefoot and extra depth if there is swelling,” she said.

 

Dr Ang also advised against buying closed toe shoes for mums with swollen feet. New footwear should also be bought to keep up with your feet’s changing sizes.

 

But with all the limitations, does this mean that expecting mothers are stuck with frumpy shoes throughout their pregnancy?

 

Not necessarily, said Ms Phua.

 

“There is inevitably some degree of compromise on fashion but one can still get decent-looking footwear during pregnancy,” she said.

 

For instance, while flat ballet pumps may not be suitable for pregnant women, you could substitute it with Mary Janes with a deeper heel counter to “hold the foot down, thus providing better support and stability”. Or if the occasion calls for it, you can still wear heels but they should not exceed 1.5 inches and should ideally be sturdy. However, Ms Phua advised against wearing heels for too long.

 

“Some women have it easy, while some go through a lot of complications during their pregnancy. At the end of the day, most expectant mums would prefer comfort over fashion, especially during the last trimester,” she said.

 

So, even though this season’s “in” footwear — flat gladiator sandals and slingbacks — may look too tempting to resist, it’s probably best to just wait out your pregnancy with less glamorous, but safer, shoes.

 

Proper footwear for expectant mums is important for the back, knees and feet. AFP

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